80 Percent of COVID Patients Have This Deadly Complication, Study Says

The majority of COVID-19 patients will be dealing with this long after "recovering," new research shows.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we've learned that the coronavirus attacks much more than just your respiratory system. There are symptoms of the virus that affect everything from your mouth to your digestive tract. Now, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Cardiology has found that one of the more frightening lingering effects of COVID-19 is also very common. According to the JAMA Cardiology study, nearly 80 percent of COVID patients have heart damage.

The research, which was conducted out of Germany's University Hospital Frankfurt, examined the MRI scans of 100 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, most of whom were otherwise healthy and in their 40s and 50s. The scans showed that 78 of the patients (78 percent) had signs of heart damage. Furthermore, 60 percent of the patients showed signs of inflammation. The researchers say these startling findings demonstrate the need for "ongoing investigation of the long-term cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19."

The study's lead author, Valentina Putmann, MD, cardiologist and clinical pharmacologist at University Hospital Frankfurt, told Stat, "The fact that 78 percent of 'recovered' [patients] had evidence of ongoing heart involvement means that the heart is involved in a majority of patients, even if COVID-19 illness does not scream out with the classical heart symptoms, such as anginal chest pain."

Health care worker listening to patient's heart during coronavirus pandemic

In a recent paper, JAMA Cardiology editors Clyde W. Yancy, MD, and Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, cite this new study as evidence that they "see the plot thickening." They write: "We are inclined to raise a new and very evident concern that cardiomyopathy and heart failure related to COVID-19 may potentially evolve as the natural history of this infection becomes clearer."

Unfortunately, while the new German study did begin to answer some questions, it also opened the door for even more queries. "The question now is how long these changes persist?" cardiologist Matthew Tomey, MD, who was not involved with the study, told Stat. "Are these going to become chronic effects upon the heart, or are these—we hope—temporary effects on cardiac function that will gradually improve over time?"

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As experts continue to study COVID-19 and its long-lasting effects, we will hopefully find out those answers. And for more information on how COVID-19 affects the heart, check out Most Coronavirus Patients Have Serious Damage to This Vital Organ.

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