As the days go by and coronavirus no longer something new for the scientific community, there is more and more evidence about the cardiovascular effects that may be caused by SARS-Cov-2 in people who have recovered from the disease. “The main cardiovascular problems we are seeing are thromboses in the lungs and legs and an increase in pericarditis and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart)”, says Dr. David Vivas of the Cardiology Department at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid.
“Patients at higher risk of suffering heart problems after COVID-19 are the patients with a history of heart disease, respiratory diseases or cardiovascular risk factors, like high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight or obese, with high cholesterol, smokers, etc.”, explains the specialist, who also points out that there is a higher risk in men. So, people more at risk of suffering cardiovascular problems due to COVID-19 are those who, because of their underlying health conditions, may develop cardiovascular problems in the future anyway, in spite of COVID-19.
But people with this profile are not the only ones to see a doctor because of symptoms like tiredness, lethargy, chest pain or palpitations. “We are also seeing more young people with no risk factors suffering from inflammatory conditions causing these symptoms”, states Dr. Vivas, who stresses that these cardiovascular problems after COVID-19 can also appear in people who have had mild forms of the disease, at home, and even in people who have shown no symptoms.
For that reason, Dr. Vivas recommends consulting a cardiologist after recovering from COVID-19 in case there are cardiovascular risk factors or symptoms similar to those described (tiredness, lethargy, chest pain, palpitations), whatever the age of the patient or the severity of the viral infection.
However, many patients, due to confinement, uncertainty and fear of becoming infected, have not consulted a specialist despite having these symptoms, which are compatible with cardiovascular disease. Aware of the problem, MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid is encouraging anyone who has had COVID-19 and who would like to have their heart health checked out to undergo a full cardiovascular examination.
“At MD Anderson Madrid, we carry out a basal assessment of the patient’s risk of suffering cardiovascular effects even before going through COVID-19, focusing particularly on the symptoms described by the patient”, states Dr. Vivas. So, depending on the individual person, our assessment is based on a series of non-invasive tests like an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, a Doppler echocardiogram, a stress test, Holter monitoring, ergometry and so on.
In patients who already had underlying cardiovascular conditions and who, fortunately, have survived the disease, this check-up is even more important, since it is vital to determine whether or not there has been any change in these underlying conditions. “These cardiovascular side effects are basically a result of the virus itself, but we must take into account the treatments patients have been administered for COVID-19 and its effects, above all in cases where the patient already had heart issues, to carry out the analysis”.