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A major correction to post-COVID-19 heart damage study leaves conclusions intact– maybe

2020-08-26
Coronavirus studies by Engin Akyurt via pixabay.com

The study authors were quoted in Medpage Today as standing behind the main conclusions of their study.

“We are pleased to confirm that reanalysis of the data has not led to a change in the main conclusions of the study,” they wrote. “As we originally reported, compared with healthy controls and risk factor-matched controls, patients recently recovered from COVID-19 had lower left ventricular ejection fraction, higher left ventricle volume, and elevated values of T1 and T2.”

Only the comparison for left ventricular mass index between COVID-19 patients and healthy controls changed from a significant to a nonsignificant association.

https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/88263

This study was described as “the most important cardiology study of the decade” by Darrel Francis, MD, of the National Heart and Lung Institute of Imperial College London, who criticized the journal for “dragging its feet” although the report was only published July 27. He claims that the damage noted on the scans is real, but caused by the patients’ risk factors and not their virus infection.

Unfortunately, without baseline MRI scans, we are left with nothing to prove the ultimate cause of the damage, which is relatively very severe and affected over 70% of the patients.

Who knows? This study will at least force athletes who have had COVID-19 to have MRI scans before they are cleared to participate in college or professional sports. The results of a huge number of scans may shed more light on the incidence of these abnormalities in all athletes.

This reminds me of the autopsy studies done on soldiers killed during combat operations in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan/Iraq. The post-mortem examinations found that a high proportion of these young, presumably healthy men had early atherosclerotic disease (“hardening of the arteries”) in their hearts.

There was less “hardening of the arteries” in more recent traumatic deaths, confirming the impression that heart attacks have declined as a cause of death over the last 50 years. Yet there are still people who appear healthy who have significant atherosclerosis– so we don’t know how much heart disease there is unless we look.

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