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‘Welcome reassurance’: Mild Covid-19 infection unlikely to cause lasting heart damage, UK study finds

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In positive news for millions of recovered Covid-19 patients, new research indicates that mild infection with the virus is very unlikely to cause lasting damage to the structure or function of the heart.

University College London (UCL) researchers analysed MRI scans of 149 healthcare workers; 74 of whom had recovered from previous mild Covid-19 infections and a control group of 75 with no prior infection whose age, sex and ethnicity matched those of the first group.

Amid increasing concerns about blood clots following coronavirus infections and the potential associated risk of longer-term damage to patients’ hearts, the study is the largest and most detailed to date looking at potential long-term risks associated with milder cases.

The UCL researchers found no difference in the size or quantity of muscle within the left ventricle of both patient groups’ hearts. The left ventricle is the main heart chamber responsible for pumping blood around the body and out of the heart.

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Inflammation, scarring and elasticity of the aorta were also found to be the same across both groups.

There were also no differences in key blood markers between both patient groups, which might indicate persistent heart muscle damage.

As a result of this study, the researchers suggest redirecting resources away from heart screens of recovered Covid-19 patients who only experienced a mild infection, proposing that they would be better spent looking at high-risk groups or studying the long-term impact of more severe Covid-19 infections.

“We’ve been able to capitalise on our incredible frontline staff who’ve been exposed to the virus this past year and we’re pleased to show that the majority of people who’ve had Covid-19 seem to not be at increased risk of developing future heart complications,” said Dr. Thomas Treibel of the UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science and Barts Health NHS Trust.

“We now need to focus our attention on the long-term impact the virus has in those who’ve been hit hardest by the disease,” he said.

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Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, described the findings as “welcome reassurance to the hundreds of thousands of people who have experienced Covid-19 with mild or no symptoms.”

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