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Damage to the heart found in some COVID-19 patients discharged from hospital, study shows

Damage to the heart found in some COVID-19 patients discharged from hospital, study shows

Around half of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 and who show raised levels of a protein called troponin have suffered some damage to their heart, according to a new study.

The COVID-HEART study — supported locally by the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) North West London — looked at the type of injury occurring in hearts of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 who had a raised troponin level.

Around 50% of patients were found to have some damage to their hearts, discovered at least one month after discharge using a cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Damage seen included inflammation of the heart muscle, scarring or death of heart tissue, restricted blood supply to the heart, and combinations of all three.

In North West London, patients were recruited at Hammersmith Hospital (part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust). Other recruiting trusts included Royal Free London NHS Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust.

COVID-19 patients with high troponin levels were given an MRI scan after discharge from hospital. These results were compared with 40 healthy volunteers and patients who had not had COVID-19.

Dr Graham Cole, consultant cardiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and co-lead of the study, said:

“Our study shows that in the very sickest group of COVID-19 patients who also had an elevated troponin, around half had evidence of damage. This was new in some cases, but in others it may have been old.

“Further research and follow-up will help us discover what the longer-term implications are for patients."

Troponin is released into the blood when the heart muscle is injured. Increased levels can occur when an artery becomes blocked or there is inflammation of the heart.

The study looked at 148 patients and is the largest of its kind to investigate recovering COVID-19 patients who had raised troponin levels.

Read the full paper in the European Heart Journal.