New findings on impact of long Covid on heart health

Prevalence of lasting cardiac damage is low

Deborah Condon

October 8, 2021

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  • A new Irish study on the impact of long Covid on heart health indicates that while residual symptoms are common, the prevalence of lasting cardiac damage is low.

    The Study of Heart Disease and Immunity after Covid-19 in Ireland, known as the SETANTA study, involved 100 participants who had a recent history of Covid infection. They were recruited from GP surgeries in Dublin and all provided a full medical history and underwent detailed cardiac work-up with cardiac MRI, ECG, heart monitor and blood tests.

    The mean age of the participants was 45 and 64% were female.

    The study found that residual complaints six months after Covid infection were common. The most commonly reported symptoms were fatigue/malaise, myalgia, headache, fever, cough, loss of sense of smell, loss of sense of taste, sore throat and gastrointestinal disturbance.

    When it came specifically to new-onset cardiac symptoms, 62% reported shortness of breath, 54% reported palpitations, 53% reported dizziness/light headedness, 41% reported chest pain/heaviness and 4% reported syncope.

    However, the researchers pointed out that while a high proportion of the patients who participated in the study presented with residual symptoms, the initial findings provide reassurance that there is a low prevalence of lasting cardiac damage.

    While one in 10 patients showed some evidence of fluid collection around the heart, less than 3% showed evidence of significant heart scarring.

    The study noted that hospital settings are not always representative of a broad range of patient groups. The fact that the SETANTA study involved patients who had been invited to attend via their GPs is considered an important aspect of this study’s design, as it ensured that the participants were representative of the community.

    Overall, 18% reported severe symptoms, 35% reported moderate symptoms, while the rest reported mild or no symptoms.

    The preliminary findings were presented at the Irish Cardiac Society’s 72nd Annual Scientific Meeting on October 7 by researchers based at CVRI Dublin at the Mater Private Network and RSCI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

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