(CBS News) – A large international study led by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is helping doctors better understand COVID-19’s impact on the heart. Researchers looked at the heart ultrasounds of more than 300 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. They found two-thirds had heart abnormalities and those patients had a higher risk of death.
Study author Dr. Martin Goldman, a professor of cardiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, says, “We tend to think it’s more an inflammatory response against the virus, which is affecting the heart, rather the direct attack of the virus into the heart.”
Doctors say these heart injuries can be associated with heart attack, pulmonary embolism, and heart failure. Dr. Goldman says the ultrasounds may be an important tool to identify high-risk patients who may benefit from more aggressive and tailored treatment. “We’re learning every day something new. We think we need to continue investigating what the long-term effects are on all their organ systems, including the brain, the heart, the kidneys, the lungs,” he says.
Jihan Mikhail spent a month in the hospital battling severe COVID-19. She has underlying conditions and was intubated for 10 days. “That minute I called my husband and I told him, I’m going, please take care of yourself. I’m leaving. Don’t worry,” she says.
Seven months later, she’s still struggling. The 47-year-old’s heart is not pumping well because it was damaged by the coronavirus. She has trouble breathing. “My muscle, my heart, very weak,” she says.
Mikhail sleeps with oxygen and gets tired easily, but her scans show she’s improving. “The muscle of the heart, it’s getting stronger. It’s kind of scary to me. I’m very frustrated,” she says. She’s taking her medications as prescribed and trying to heal from this ordeal.
Doctors say patients with existing cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity should try to manage the conditions now, because it could help prevent heart complications related to COVID-19.