BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Journal of the American Medical Association recently revealed a study that points to COVID-19’s impacts the heart and specifically inflammation in the heart muscle, causing a condition called myocarditis.
Dr. Barry Rayburn, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Specialists of Birmingham at St. Vincent’s Hospital, said in the study, 100 people who recovered from COVID-19 received a heart test. In the study, 60% of those not only had evidence of the virus in their heart muscle, but also showed it was causing inflammation in the heart muscle.
Rayburn said myocarditis is typically seen after a virus, but the new study is concerning.
“It’s an inflammatory condition often caused by viruses and it’s a wide variety of viruses that can cause this. The cases that we see are cases that often progress where it makes the heart weaker and causes the clinical syndrome of heart failure which is typically shortness of breath, fluid retention, poor organ function because they weren’t circulating enough blood, and it can be a very serious condition,” Rayburn said.
Recent reports also reveal that some college football athletes have been diagnosed with myocarditis and could have been an influence is some college conferences canceling fall sports.
Rayburn said the condition definitely needs to be taken seriously for athletes.
“If the heart does have inflammation, is vigorously exercising, working out, being athletic a risk? Certainly in years gone by when patients are diagnosed with myocarditis, we recommend that they not participate in aggressive physical activity for a period of time until the heart recovers and it usually does recover,” he said.
Rayburn said this is just one study and there is still a lot of unknowns about how myocarditis is linked to COVID-19.
“What we don’t know is whether or not this is clinically relevant or have any long term consequences to those individuals. This is an observation at this point. It’s weary of what this virus may be capable of doing long term but we don’t know if this is something that is transient and maybe in 6 months when you look again it’ll be fine and go away,” he said.
Rayburn said this is good first step in understanding how the heart can be impacted by COVID-19, but said more studies need to be administered globally.
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