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Reassuring findings from Ireland’s largest prospective study on Long Covid and heart health

Findings from Ireland’s largest prospective study on Long Covid and heart health show a high proportion of participants presented with residual cardiac symptoms, but prevalence of lasting cardiac damage is low.

The preliminary findings on the SETANTA study (Study of Heart Disease and Immunity after Covid-19 in Ireland) will be presented at the Irish Cardiac Society’s 72nd Annual Scientific Meeting on Thursday 7 October by researchers based at CVRI Dublin at the Mater Private Network and RSCI University of Medicine and Health Sciences. The SETANTA study was funded by the Mater Private Network and WomenAsOne, a US non-profit foundation to support female researchers.

The study prospectively recruited a total of 100 participants from GP surgeries in Dublin who had a recent history of Covid-19 infection. The participants underwent detailed state-of-the-art cardiac work up with cardiac MRI, ECG, heart-monitor, blood tests and provided their medical history. In the total cohort of 100 cases that participated in the CVRI Dublin-led SETANTA study, the mean age was 45 – amongst whom 65 per cent were females. 60 per cent had already received their first dose of SAR-CoV-2 vaccine at presentation.

Residual complaints, on average six months after acute Covid illness, were common. The most commonly reported SARS-CoV-2 specific symptoms were, fatigue/malaise (43 per cent resolved, 43 per cent persistent), myalgia (63 per cent resolved, 11 per cent persistent), headache (66 per cent resolved, 22 per cent persistent), fever (50 per cent resolved, 3 per cent persistent), productive/non-productive cough (49 per cent resolved, 4 per cent persistent), loss of sense of smell (32 per cent resolved, 17 per cent persistent), loss of sense of taste (31 per cent resolved, 15 per cent persistent), sore throat (29 per cent resolved, 2 per cent persistent), gastrointestinal disturbance (33 per cent resolved, 6 per cent persistent) and skin rashes (9 per cent resolved, 1 per cent persistent).

Amongst new onset cardiac specific symptoms since index SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis, 62 per cent reported shortness of breath, 54 per cent palpitations, 53 per cent dizziness/light headedness, 41 per cent chest pain/heaviness, and 4 per cent syncope.

Although a high proportion of the patients who participated in the study presented with residual symptoms, the good news is that initial findings provide reassurance that there is a low prevalence of lasting cardiac damage. While 1 in 10 patients showed some evidence of fluid collection around the heart, less than 3 per cent showed evidence of significant heart scarring.

It has been found that hospital settings are not always representative of a broad range of patient groups, an important aspect of SETANTA study design was that patients were invited to participate in the study through their GPs in the community.

This ensured that the study population was representative of the community. 18 per cent reported severe symptoms, 35 per cent reported moderate symptoms, with the balance reporting mild or no symptoms.

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