Myocardial injury is frequently observed in patients hospitalized with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia. Different cardiac abnormalities have been reported during the acute COVID-19 phase, ranging from infra-clinic elevations of myocardial necrosis biomarkers to acute cardiac dysfunction and myocarditis. There is limited information on late cardiac sequelae in patients who have recovered from acute COVID-19 illness. We aimed to document the presence and quantify the extent of myocardial functional alterations in patients hospitalized 6 months earlier for COVID-19 infection.
We conducted a prospective echocardiographic evaluation of 48 patients (mean age 58 ± 13 years, 69% male) hospitalized 6 ± 1 month earlier for a laboratory-confirmed and symptomatic COVID-19. Thirty-two (66.6%) had pre-existing cardiovascular risks factors (systemic hypertension, diabetes, or dyslipidaemia), and three patients (6.2%) had a known prior myocardial infarction. Sixteen patients (33.3%) experienced myocardial injury during the index COVID-19 hospitalization as identified by a rise in cardiac troponin levels. Six months later, 60.4% of patients still reported clinical symptoms including exercise dyspnoea for 56%. Echocardiographic measurements under resting conditions were not different between patients with versus without myocardial injury during the acute COVID-19 phase. In contrast, low-level exercise (25W for 3 min) induced a significant increase in the average E/e’ ratio (10.1 ± 4.3 vs. 7.3 ± 11.5, P = 0.01) and the systolic pulmonary artery pressure (33.4 ± 7.8 vs. 25.6 ± 5.3 mmHg, P = 0.02) in patients with myocardial injury during the acute COVID-19 phase. Sensitivity analyses showed that these alterations of left ventricular diastolic markers were observed regardless of whether of cardiovascular risk factors or established cardiac diseases indicating SARS-CoV-2 infection as a primary cause.
Six months after the acute COVID-19 phase, significant cardiac diastolic abnormalities are observed in patients who experienced myocardial injury but not in patients without cardiac involvement.

© 2021 The Authors. ESC Heart Failure published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Society of Cardiology.