heart inflammation after covid-19

One in eight people who were hospitalized with Covid-19 between May 2020 and March 2021 were later diagnosed with myocarditis, according to major new research into the clinical long-term effects of coronavirus.

The largest study of its kind to date was led by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC), and followed for one year, in real time, 159 patients after they were hospitalized with Covid-19.

The study also looked at why some patients suffer long-term ill health after hospitalization with Covid-19. Until now it has been speculated that previous underlying health conditions may be linked to the severity of post-Covid long-term effects.

However, this new study suggests that it is the severity of the infection itself which is most closely correlated to the severity of a patient’s long-Covid symptoms, rather than pre-existing health problems.

Hospitalization with Covid-19 was found to cause a number of long-term health problems.

Researchers found one in eight patients hospitalized with Covid-19 have heart inflammation, while inflammation across the body and damage to the other organs such as the kidneys was also common.

These problems clustered in individuals pointing to the overall severity of Covid-19 as being the main driver of illness. Exercise capacity and health related quality of life were markedly impaired initially after discharge from hospital and remained reduced one to two months after discharge – this was especially the case in patients with heart inflammation.

During a period of 450 days after discharge from hospital, one in seven patients died or were readmitted to hospital, and two in three patients required NHS outpatient care.

Patients were given questionnaires on the same day they underwent blood tests and scans, before they had been given clinical results, in order to gain a true understanding of how they were feeling post hospitalisation. From these questionnaires, having been hospitalised with Covid-19 was associated with a worse health-related quality of life as well as with anxiety and depression.

Professor Colin Berry, principle investigator of the study, said: “Covid-19 is a multi-system disease, and our study shows that injury on the heart, lungs and kidneys can be seen after initial hospitalisation in scans and blood tests. These results bridge a vital knowledge gap between our current understanding of post-Covid-19 syndromes, such as Long Covid, and objective evidence of ongoing disease.”

The study, ‘Multisystem, cardio-renal investigation of post-covid illness’ is published in Nature Medicine and was funded by the Scottish government’s chief scientist office, and supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) as part of the University of Glasgow BHF Centre of Excellence.

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