A study done by the British Heart Foundation has revealed that covid patients can suffer irreversible heart damage as a result of their battle with the disease.
The study which looked at 1,216 patients in hospitals in 69 countries around the world, had found that more than half of infected patients who had heart scans while in hospital with Covid-19 showed abnormal changes to their organ.
One in eight had signs of ‘severe dysfunction’ in their heart and doctors couldn’t find any other explanation except the coronavirus.
In the UK around one in four people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 die of it but even survivors may be left with long-term illness, this research suggests.
Long-term effects can include coughing, shortness of breath and reduced lung capcity, and there is also evidence the virus can affect the brain and kidneys. A lung doctor who helped treat Boris Johnson said the virus is ‘this generation’s polio’.
Professor Mark Dweck, who is also a cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘Covid-19 is a complex, multisystem disease which can have profound effects on many parts of the body, including the heart.
‘Many doctors have been hesitant to order echocardiograms for patients with Covid-19 because it’s an added procedure which involves close contact with patients.
Fifty-five per cent of the patients whose medical records were made available to the researchers showed signs of damaging changes to their hearts which were affecting how well they pumped blood – and most of them had had healthy hearts before.
A further 13 per cent of the patients showed severe dysfunction in their heart, which likely raised their risk of death or of having permanent illness.
The study was only done on patients who had their hearts scanned, meaning it is not clear how coronavirus affects the hearts of people who aren’t critically ill.
Professor Dweck added: ‘Damage to the heart is known to occur in severe flu, but we were surprised to see so many patients with damage to their heart with Covid-19 and so many patients with severe dysfunction.
‘We now need to understand the exact mechanism of this damage, whether it is reversible and what the long-term consequences of Covid-19 infection are on the heart.’
Professor Dweck and his colleagues said more coronavirus patients should have their hearts scanned so doctors can pick up on problems and treat them.