Recovered COVID-19 Patients Can Suffer Long-Term Heart Damage, New Studies Say -- Shall We Become More Careful?

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There is new scientific evidence from Germany that COVID-19 can cause lasting cardiovascular damage. The condition may go undetected in patients who recovered from the novel virus, researchers found out.

The medical journal JAMA Cardiology published the two studies on Tuesday to prove that virus can linger in the heart for months without producing any symptoms.

The first scientific research featured 100 coronavirus patients in their 40s and 50s from the Unversity Hospital Frankfurt COVID-19 Registry. Most of them were otherwise healthy. 

These relatively young, healthy patients fell in the spring after they returned from ski vacations. None of them thought they had any heart-related issues.

All of them had MRIs of their heart two to three months after they were tested positive for COVID-19. By that time, many of them seemed to have fully recovered. The research team compared their images to people who had never suffered from the novel virus.

Out of the 100 examined patients, 78 had structural changes to their hearts. 76 out of those 78 had a biomarker that is usually found in patients who had a heart attack, and 60 had myocarditis, a heart inflammation. 

Dr. Valentina Puntmann, a cardiologist at University Hospital Frankfurt and co-author of the study, said that the patients and her colleagues were equally surprised by the findings' intensity. 

According to Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief of cardiology at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, the problem may not lead to physical symptoms, but it carries a risk for potential heart damage.

The second study examined the autopsy results of 39 patients in their 80s who died early in the pandemic. The virus had infected the heart in 41% of the patients, researchers said. 

Dr. Dirk Westermann, the co-author of the study and a cardiologist at the University of Hamburg hospital, said that they saw signs of viral replication in the people that were profoundly affected. 

Dr. Marc Pffeffer, a cardiologist in Boston who was not involved in the study, commented that the results are worrisome. Dr. Pffeffer is concerned that relatively young patients are losing their cardiac health reserves which usually decreases in time and set the stage for heart failure.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez confirmed on Sunday that he would miss the start of the new MLB season due to his recent COVID-19 experience. He is now suffering from myocarditis, the hearth inflammation found in the first German study, in the months after he tested positive for coronavirus.

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