Study: Heart Scans On 1,216 COVID-19 Patients Show 55% Had Heart Damage

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667 participants had abnormalities in their scan, and one in seven had “severe abnormalities.”

Newsweek reports that a study published in the European Heart Journal - Cardiovascular Imaging has found that of the 1,216 heart scans on confirmed, probable, or presumed COVID-19 patients the researchers examined, 55 percent displayed heart damage.

The co-authors explained to Newsweek that the study involved 1,216 patients. 813 had been diagnosed with COVID-19, 298 were probable cases, and due to the design of the study the remaining 103 were assumed to have COVID-19. The participants, who were from a total of 69 different countries on 6 different continents, had each had an echocardiogram between April 3 and 20. Of the total, 667 individuals’ echocardiograms showed abnormalities, suggesting heart damage. One in seven displayed “severe abnormalities,” the study reported. The average age of the patients was 62-years-old, and 70 percent of them were male. 54 percent reportedly had severe COVID-19.

Initially, those with abnormal scans were more likely to be older and have underlying heart conditions. However, Newsweek explains that even

after the team excluded patients with existing heart conditions from their analysis, the proportion of abnormal scan results and those with severe cardiac disease was similar. This suggests that the issues were related to COVID-19, they said.

The team also noted that existing research suggests patients with cardiovascular disease or a propensity for developing such are at risk of a worse COVID-19 prognosis. Also, one in three patients who received echocardiography scans saw their course of treatment change after the scan.

Professor Marc Dweck, who is one of the co-authors and is a consultant cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh, U.K., said the following in a statement:

COVID-19 is a complex, multisystem disease which can have profound effects on many parts of the body, including the heart.

Many doctors have been hesitant to order echocardiograms for patients with COVID-19 because it's an added procedure which involves close contact with patients. Our work shows that these scans are important—they improved the treatment for a third of patients who received them.

Dweck also told Newsweek,

Such heart damage is potentially a very serious problem for these patients, and likely to have an important influence on their ability to survive and recover from the illness.

However, it is also an excellent opportunity, because we actually have many very good treatments for heart failure. If we can identify the COVID-19 patients with heart involvement, we can introduce therapies to help them get better quicker.

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