Study on ‘long Covid’ shows low rate of lasting heart damage

However, many of those infected can experience residual cardiac symptoms

Of those with new onset cardiac symptoms, 62 per cent reported shortness of breath, 54 per cent had palpitations, 53 dizziness and 41 per cent chest pain/heaviness. Photograph: Jeffrey Basinger via Getty Images

Of those with new onset cardiac symptoms, 62 per cent reported shortness of breath, 54 per cent had palpitations, 53 dizziness and 41 per cent chest pain/heaviness. Photograph: Jeffrey Basinger via Getty Images

 

Covid-19 does not lead to lasting heart damage for most of those infected but can leave many with residual cardiac symptoms, a new Irish study indicates.

Six months after their illness, 43 per cent of patients who had reported persistent fatigue or malaise still had this symptom. Some 22 per cent still had headaches, and 11 per cent continued to suffer muscle aches (myalgia). Seventeen per cent still had a loss of sense of smell and 15 per cent had a loss of sense of taste.

Smaller proportions reported other symptoms: fever (persisting for 3 per cent), cough (4 per cent) sore throat (2 per cent), gastrointestinal disturbance (6 per cent) and skin rashes (1 per cent).

One hundred patients were recruited for the study from GP surgeries in Dublin, all of whom had recently had Covid-19, by a research team from Mater Private Network and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Participants underwent detailed cardiac testing, including MRIs, ECGs, heart-monitors and blood tests.

Of those with new onset cardiac symptoms, 62 per cent reported shortness of breath, 54 per cent had palpitations, 53 dizziness and 41 per cent chest pain/heaviness.

Although a high proportion of the patients who participated in the study presented with residual symptoms, the authors say the good news is that initial findings provide reassurance that there is a low prevalence of lasting cardiac damage.

While one in 10 patients showed some evidence of fluid collection around the heart, less than 3 per cent showed evidence of significant heart scarring.

The findings from the Setanta study, the largest Irish prospective study on long Covid and heart health, are preliminary, and were presented at the annual meeting of the Irish Cardiac Society on Thursday.

The average age of participants was 45 years, and almost two-thirds were women. One in five reported severe symptoms, 35 per cent reported moderate symptoms, and the balance had mild or no symptoms.