More than half of COVID-19 patients showed some form of heart damage in scans after their illness, according to a recent study that adds to mounting evidence showing the virus may cause cardiac injury.
An observational analysis of more than 1,200 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients across 69 countries between April 3 and April 20 found heart abnormalities in 55% after they underwent echocardiograms, with 1 in 7 experiencing severe cardiac disease.
The results were recently published in the European Heart Journal–Cardiovascular Imaging.
The majority of patients tested had no pre-existing heart problems, yet 46% of that group were found to have heart abnormalities, with 13% showing signs of severe disease.
"Building on this study, there is now a need for future imaging and biomarker studies to systematically investigate the cardiovascular manifestations of COVID-19, and to establish their true prevalence," researchers wrote.
Study participants' average age was 62 and 70% were male. Normal indicators that would alert clinicians of the possibility of a heart problem were not present in most of the patients who had abnormal echocardiograms. Only 11% of patients with abnormal scans reported having chest pains, while signs of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, were found in only 5% of that same group. Such indicators normally prompt clinicians to conduct more tests, like an echocardiogram, to look for heart issues.
Though COVID-19 has been primarily associated with causing respiratory damage, the findings are the latest in a growing body of evidence pointing to the virus' impact on other organs.
A study published last month in the Lancet based on autopsies performed on 18 patients who had tested positive for coronavirus found clotting in blood vessels within their heart, kidneys, liver and lungs.
Research published in April in the New England Journal of Medicine found patients had elevated electrocardiogram readings usually associated with having a heart attack, yet most showed no signs of having arterial blockage.