An imaging investigation shows that heart damage may be a lasting effect of COVID-19 infections, even in relatively mild cases.

Among 100 recovered patients, 78% had abnormal results following cardiac magnetic resonance imaging and 60% had ongoing heart muscle (myocardial) inflammation. More than half of these patients did not require hospitalization, suggesting that they’d had a relatively mild course of the disease.

Notably, participants without preexisting cardiac conditions who recovered at home had myocardial inflammation similar in severity and extent to that of the hospitalized participants, reported Valentina O. Puntmann, M.D., Ph.D., of University Hospital Frankfurt, Germany. 

The results suggest that the heart is involved in a majority of patients, “even if COVID-19 illness does not scream out with the classical heart symptoms, such as anginal chest pain,” Puntmann told STAT. “In my view, the relatively clear onset of Covid-19 illness provides an opportunity to take proactive action and to look for heart involvement early [in the disease course].”