More than half of coronavirus patients suffer heart damage, major study finds
MORE than half of patients hospitalised with coronavirus suffer heart damage, a major study has found.
Research from 69 countries showed that 55 per cent of 1,261 Covid-19 patients had abnormal changes to the way the heart was pumping.
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The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), also found that around one in seven had evidence of severe dysfunction.
Yet the majority – 901 patients – had never been diagnosed with heart problems before.
Experts warn the findings suggest that Covid-19 itself may seriously affect the vital organ.
Among this group, heart scans were abnormal in 46 per cent of patients and 13 per cent had severe disease.
Just over half (54 per cent) of all the scans were performed in intensive care, with others carried out on general wards, heart and lung wards and in A&E.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation and a consultant cardiologist, said: "Severe Covid-19 illness can result in damage to the heart and circulatory system.
"We urgently need to understand more about why this is happening so we can provide appropriate care – both short and long term.
"This global study – carried out at the height of the pandemic – shows that we must be on the lookout for heart complications in people with Covid-19 so that we can adapt their treatment if needed."
The study, published in the European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Imaging, found the abnormalities were almost evenly split between the left and right chambers of the heart.
We urgently need to understand more about why this is happening so we can provide appropriate care – both short and long term
Some three per cent of patients had suffered a recent heart attack, according to the scans.
As a result of their scan, one third of patients had their treatment changed, including being given medicines for heart failure, or more careful control of fluids and therapy designed to support heart function.
The study was carried out by researchers from the British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence at the University of Edinburgh.
The team cautioned that the study cannot conclude how common heart changes are in people who did not receive scans.
They stressed that all patients in the study were in hospital and had suspected heart complications.
Professor Marc Dweck, who led the research, said: "Covid-19 is a complex, multi-system 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.
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"Our work shows that these scans are important – they improved the treatment for a third of patients who received them.
"Damage to the heart is known to occur in severe flu, but we were surprised to see so many patients with damage to their heart with Covid-19 and so many patients with severe dysfunction.
"We now need to understand the exact mechanism of this damage, whether it is reversible and what the long-term consequences of Covid-19 infection are on the heart."
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