Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to cause considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide. Case reports of hospitalized patients suggest that COVID-19 prominently affects the cardiovascular system, but the overall impact remains unknown.
To evaluate the presence of myocardial injury in unselected patients recently recovered from COVID-19 illness.
Design, Setting, and Participants
In this prospective observational cohort study, 100 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 illness were identified from the University Hospital Frankfurt COVID-19 Registry between April and June 2020.
Recent recovery from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection, as determined by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction on swab test of the upper respiratory tract.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Demographic characteristics, cardiac blood markers, and cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging were obtained. Comparisons were made with age-matched and sex-matched control groups of healthy volunteers (n = 50) and risk factor-matched patients (n = 57).
Of the 100 included patients, 53 (53%) were male, and the median (interquartile range [IQR]) age was 49 (45-53) years. The median (IQR) time interval between COVID-19 diagnosis and CMR was 71 (64-92) days. Of the 100 patients recently recovered from COVID-19, 67 (67%) recovered at home, while 33 (33%) required hospitalization. At the time of CMR, high-sensitivity troponin T (hsTnT) was detectable (3 pg/mL or greater) in 71 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 (71%) and significantly elevated (13.9 pg/mL or greater) in 5 patients (5%). Compared with healthy controls and risk factor-matched controls, patients recently recovered from COVID-19 had lower left ventricular ejection fraction, higher left ventricle volumes, higher left ventricle mass, and raised native T1 and T2. A total of 78 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 (78%) had abnormal CMR findings, including raised myocardial native T1 (n = 73), raised myocardial native T2 (n = 60), myocardial late gadolinium enhancement (n = 32), and pericardial enhancement (n = 22). There was a small but significant difference between patients who recovered at home vs in the hospital for native T1 mapping (median [IQR], 1122 [1113-1132] ms vs 1143 [1131-1156] ms; P = .02) but not for native T2 mapping or hsTnT levels. None of these measures were correlated with time from COVID-19 diagnosis (native T1: r = 0.07; P = .47; native T2: r = 0.14; P = .15; hsTnT: r = -0.07; P = .50). High-sensitivity troponin T was significantly correlated with native T1 mapping (r = 0.35; P < .001) and native T2 mapping (r = 0.22; P = .03). Endomyocardial biopsy in patients with severe findings revealed active lymphocytic inflammation. Native T1 and T2 were the measures with the best discriminatory ability to detect COVID-19-related myocardial pathology.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this study of a cohort of German patients recently recovered from COVID-19 infection, CMR revealed cardiac involvement in 78 patients (78%) and ongoing myocardial inflammation in 60 patients (60%), independent of preexisting conditions, severity and overall course of the acute illness, and time from the original diagnosis. These findings indicate the need for ongoing investigation of the long-term cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19.