People with ‘long-term COVID’ may have heart damage if they struggle with shortness of breath a year later


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JETTE, Belgium ( – People with ‘long COVID’ may have suffered heart damage if they still have trouble breathing during exercise a year later, the researchers warn. Medical tests show that patients who experience shortness of breath a year after leaving hospital are more likely to have cardiovascular problems, even if they have never had one before.

There is growing evidence that the coronavirus and its lasting symptoms such as shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, could cause heart problems. Belgian scientists have confirmed that these long symptoms of COVID could be linked to the toll the virus takes in people’s hearts.

New scanning techniques could help identify patients who are at risk of developing a lengthy COVID after being infected.

“The results could help explain why some patients with long COVID still suffer from shortness of breath a year later and indicate that this could be linked to a decrease in heart performance,” says study author Dr Maria -Luiza Luchian, from the Brussels University Hospital in Belgium. , in a report.

Shortness of breath from long COVID linked to heart problems?

Researchers looked at data from 66 patients with no history of heart or lung disease who were hospitalized for COVID-19 between March and April 2020. Patients’ lung capacity and long-term COVID symptoms were assessed one year after discharge. hospital using special x-ray equipment known as chest computed tomography. Ultrasound and a more modern imaging technique known as myocardial work have also been conducted to examine the heart health of patients.

Analyzes of patients who continued to be short of breath a year after being hospitalized with COVID have shown greater heart damage, the researchers report.

“Our study shows that more than a third of COVID-19 patients without a history of heart or lung disease had persistent dyspnea on exertion one year after discharge from hospital,” explains Dr. Luchian. “By examining cardiac function in detail by cardiac ultrasound, we observed subtle abnormalities that could explain the persistent shortness of breath. “

According to the American Academy of Physical and Rehabilitation, about 10 to 30% of Americans with COVID report having at least one symptom after six months.

New imaging techniques such as myocardial work could help doctors keep tabs on people’s heart health after their recovery from COVID.

“Myocardial work could be a new echocardiographic tool for the early identification of abnormalities in cardiac function in patients with long-term COVID-19, who may need more frequent and long-term cardiac monitoring,” explains Dr Luchian. “Future studies including different variants of COVID-19 and the impact of vaccination are needed to confirm our results on the long-term course and possible cardiac consequences of this disease. “

The results were presented at EuroEcho 2021, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology.

South West News Service writer Tom Campbell contributed to this report.


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