More than half of all patients hospitalised with severe Covid-19 have heart damage, according to new research from the British Heart Foundation.
The research, published in the European Heart Journal, showed 54% of patients had heart injuries, which included inflammation of the heart muscle, scarring or death of heart tissue, and restricted blood supply to heart, at least one month after discharge from hospital for severe Covid-19.
The study involved 148 patients from London hospitals and is the most extensive study to date to investigate the prevalence of heart injury in hospitalised Covid-19 patients.
Each of the patients studied had raised levels of troponin in their blood. This blood protein can indicate potential heart problems and is sometimes seen in the critical illness phase of Covid-19 as the body mounts an amplified immune response to the infection.
At least one month after discharge each patient underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of their heart. In over a quarter of participants, the pattern of scarring or injury was caused by inflammation, and 12 of the patients suffered ongoing heart inflammation.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: ‘The people who took part in the research were survivors of severe Covid-19. Whilst in hospital, they all had an abnormal troponin blood test, which is a sensitive signal of heart injury. Half then went on to have abnormal heart MRI scans after they went home.’
The researchers stressed the study did not apply to people who had mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 infections.
Dr Babu-Narayan added: ‘Some people in the study may have had heart damage they did not know about before they caught the virus. People who had heart damage thought to be caused by the virus often had subtle injuries that did not stop the heart pumping normally.’
The researchers highlighted the need for more research into the long-term effects of severe Covid-19 on the heart.