CLEVELAND, OHIO — We’re learning more about how COVID-19 impacts the body.
Now, research suggests the virus may affect the heart and cause abnormalities.
“They were able to see that some patients had fibrosis, or scar, of the heart muscle. Fortunately, it wasn’t that many of the patients but, a majority of the patients had evidence of inflammation of the heart muscle,” said Paul Cremer, MD, of Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study.
German researchers studied 100 cardiac MRI scans taken about two months after people had recovered from COVID-19.
Results show 78 of the scans had heart abnormalities, and 60 scans revealed inflammation in the heart.
Dr. Cremer said it’s a bit unexpected that people would still have evidence of inflammation in the heart more than two months after their illness.
He adds that COVID-19 doesn’t often attack the heart and he suspects that injury to the heart muscle is ‘collateral damage’ from high inflammation throughout the body that’s caused by coronavirus.
However, while data suggests COVID-19 may cause inflammation in the heart, the results are preliminary and more research is needed.
In the meantime, he said the best way to protect your heart from COVID-19 is to keep it healthy and strong.
“It’s very important that patients control their cholesterol, their diabetes, try and exercise and don’t smoke – all the usual things but, that we all know, have become incredibly difficult in the COVID-19 era,” said Dr. Cremer. “And, I think it’s particularly important that patients continue to get the medical care that’s necessary.”
Complete results of the study can be found online in JAMA Cardiology.