The months have passed, but some of those affected continue to describe heart problems after a mild corona infection. These include chest pain, tachycardia or reduced physical performance. A study by the University Hospital in Frankfurt suggests that persistent, mild inflammation of the heart muscle (subtle myocarditis) is the reason.
A research team led by Dr. Valentina Puntmann and Professor Eike Nagel examined 346 subjects between the ages of 18 and 77 around four and eleven months after surviving a Sars-CoV-2 infection. The scientists analyzed the blood of the participants, had them answer questionnaires and took pictures of the heart. None of the subjects had any heart problems before the Covid-19 infection and did not suffer any serious complications from the disease. The result of the study: 73 percent of the test persons complained of heart problems at the beginning of the study - in 57 percent these complaints had not disappeared even eleven months after the corona infection.
The researchers were initially unable to identify any abnormalities through routine examinations and blood values. But the images of a magnetic resonance tomograph (MRI) showed scarred areas (myocardial scars) on the heart muscle and pericardial effusions, with fluid between the two layers of the pericardium. The researchers also discovered other signs of inflammation. The scientists found a mild but persistent heart inflammation in the subjects. Structural changes to heart valves or heart walls were not found.
The research results prove that the subjects did not imagine the symptoms, even if they could not be assigned in routine examinations. In the study, the researchers discovered changes in the heart, such as scarred areas on the heart muscle, which can explain symptoms such as tachycardia. Previous studies with young and athletic subjects have also shown that mild heart inflammation can occur after a Covid 19 infection. The results of the study from Frankfurt am Main cannot be transferred to the general population because it was a specific group of patients.
In order to find out exactly why some Covid 19 patients develop heart problems despite a mild course, further investigation must be carried out. "It is currently difficult for us to estimate which underlying processes in the body and what long-term consequences this form of heart inflammation will have for those affected after a mild COVID infection. Hopefully further studies will give us clarity here," says Puntmann.
Sources: Study from the University Hospital in Frankfurt, notification of the study