The doctoral research of cardiologist Maria Luiza Luchian (UZ Brussel) has shown that a thorough screening of hospitalized COVID patients leads to a better risk assessment for cardiovascular disease in the long term. One third of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 even develop a heart injury after one year.
During the first corona wave, doctor Luchian followed 310 patients from the start of the acute infection, with additional check-ups at six and twelve months after their discharge from UZ Brussel. She also evaluated the presence of the protein cardiac troponin and of calcium in the coronary arteries in Covid patients to find out to what extent they can serve to predict heart disease and mortality.
30 percent have a heart defect
The impact has now been clearly demonstrated. After one year, she finds abnormal levels of cardiac troponin, a protein found primarily in the heart muscle, in one-third of patients. The changes in the evolution of this protein can indicate various acute complications such as inflammation of the heart muscle, a heart attack or cardiac arrhythmias.
After a CT scan of the chest and an extensive ultrasound of the heart, the following findings came to light: “We found subtle changes in the heart muscle, which can be linked to the persistence of symptoms, even in patients with no history of lung or heart disease. A further in-depth analysis, using a new technique, Myocardial Work, showed that heart pump function was slightly altered in these patients,” Luchian said.