Heart: How does coronavirus infection affect the cardiac tissue of patients and dead cases?

As days are going by of coronavirus pandemic, scientists studying the virus and its health implications are realizing that the virus does not only impact the lungs and respiratory system of humans. But it damages multiple organs of the body to a varying extent. Two new studies published in JAMA Cardiology reveal that heart is one of the commonly affected organ in this infection. The effect is prolonged in survivors and might be the cause of death who died of COVID-19.

Heart and COVID-19

Increasingly, people who have survived the deadly coronavirus infection are returning with symptoms of organ affection and damage. Heart is one such commonly affected organ in the body of patients of COVOD-19. And now two separate studies published in JAMA Cardiology reveal how the virus affects this organ of individuals.

Heart and coronavirus [Source: Medscape]
Dr. Nieca Goldberg, cardiologist and medical director of the NYU Women’s Heart Program reveals:

“We’ve understood for a few months now that COVID-19 is not only a respiratory infection but a multi-system infection,”

The expert opinions on cardiac involvement in COVID-19

Dr. Nieca is not part of the study but opined:

“There is an acute inflammatory response, increased blood clotting and cardiac involvement. And the cardiac involvement can either be due to direct involvement of the heart muscle by the infection and its inflammatory response. It could be due to blood clots that are formed, causing an obstruction of arteries,”

Further, the doctor continued:

“Sometimes people have very fast heart rates that can, over time, weaken the heart muscle, reduce the heart muscle function. So there are multiple ways during this infection that it can involve the heart.”

Heart and coronavirus [Source: Medscape]
In one study, 100 patients were studied. 78% had cardiac involvement on MRI scans. And in 60% of these cases, inflammation of heart was prominent. And these patients had no symptoms to moderate symptoms. The most common problem noticed in the heart was its inflammation which led to heart muscle weakening. This is myocarditis.

Limitations of the study

These patients were in the age group of 45 to 53 years from Germany. And most of them had recovered from the acute infection and were never in hospital for this infection. Hence, it is not sure whether even younger age group patents would have a similar cardiac involvement. Also,one does not know whether it affects the said organ in patients currently having an acute infection. Therefore, we need more large-scale studies to be certain of cardiac inflammation in COVID-19. Therefore, the scientists state:

“These findings indicate the need for ongoing investigation of the long-term cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19,”

In the other study, autopsies of 39 patients who died due to coronavirus were studied. They were in 78-89 age group. Of these, 16 had coronavirus in their cardiac tissue. But there was no inflammation. Again, here the scientists concluded that there is a need for more studies and also in younger age group.

Also, read Is reinfection with COVID-19 real? What does it imply for the world?

Heart and coronavirus [Source: Cleveland Clinic]
But the findings only add to the puzzles of the enigma called COVID-19. Dr. Clyde Yancy from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Dr. Gregg Fonarow from the University of California, Los Angeles stated:

“We see the plot thickening and we are inclined to raise a new and very evident concern that cardiomyopathy and heart failure related to COVID-19 may potentially evolve as the natural history of this infection becomes clearer,”