Cardiac inflammation diagnosed in 1 in 8 hospitalized COVID-19 patients a year later

In addition to heart inflammation (myocarditis), inflammation throughout the body and damage to other organs, including the kidneys, were common, researchers found. File photo by Nabil Mounzer/EPA-EFE

A year after being hospitalized with COVID-19, more than 12% of patients have been diagnosed with heart inflammation, according to a new study into the long-term effects of the virus.

For the study, researchers in Scotland followed 159 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between May 2020 and March 2021. A year later, many patients had ongoing health problems.

In addition to heart inflammation (myocarditis), inflammation throughout the body and damage to other organs, including the kidneys, were common, according to the team from the University of Glasgow and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“COVID-19 is a multisystem disease, and our study shows that injuries to the heart, lungs and kidneys can be seen in scans and blood tests after the initial hospitalization,” said study leader Colin Berry. He is Professor of Cardiology and Imaging at the University of Glasgow.

“These results fill an important knowledge gap between our current understanding of post-COVID-19 syndromes, such as B. long COVID, and objective evidence of ongoing disease,” Berry said in a university press release.

The study, called CISCO-19 (for Cardiac Imaging in SARS Coronavirus disease-19), is part of the Scottish Government’s effort to improve understanding of the coronavirus pandemic.

The participants were asked about their own impression of their health. They also underwent blood tests and CT and MRI scans of multiple organs, including the heart, kidneys and lungs. Researchers also assessed clinical outcomes, including survival, readmission to the hospital, and referral to outpatient clinics.

Investigators found that being hospitalized with COVID-19 was associated with poorer health-related quality of life and with anxiety and depression.

The results also showed that some patients experience long-term effects because of the severity of their COVID-19 symptoms, rather than pre-existing health conditions.

“The reasons for this are unclear, but it may be that a healthy person who is hospitalized with COVID-19 is likely to have a worse COVID infection than someone with underlying health problems who is hospitalized,” Berry suggested in front. “More work needs to be done here to understand the risks and also how we can better support patients who are experiencing ongoing health outcomes after being hospitalized with COVID-19.”

Within 450 days of leaving the hospital, one in seven patients had died or been readmitted. Overall, two out of three had to be treated on an outpatient basis.

The study found that long COVID appears to predominantly affect women. The researchers found an association between being female and myocarditis. This was then associated with reduced mental and physical well-being.

The results point to the need for targeted use of medical testing, development of new therapies and rehabilitation, the study authors said. They also emphasize the importance of vaccination to prevent severe COVID-19.

“This study provides important insights into the longer-term effects of COVID-19 infection and will help inform future treatment approaches,” said David Crossman, former Chief Scientist of Scotland (Health).

While the study focused on people hospitalized with COVID-19, other research examining cases that did not require hospitalization has reported more encouraging long-term health data.

Researchers noted that most of the patients in this study were unvaccinated because they were enrolled early in the pandemic. Risk factors for heart disease were common, including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The report was published online Monday in Nature Medicine. The study is ongoing and will include follow-up of participants at 18 months and five years.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID.

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