Background: A high proportion of COVID-19 patients were reported to have cardiac involvements. Data pertaining to cardiac sequalae is of urgent importance to define subsequent cardiac surveillance.
Methods: We performed a systematic cardiac screening for 97 consecutive COVID-19 survivors including electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiography, serum troponin and NT-proBNP assay 1-4 weeks after hospital discharge. Treadmill exercise test and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) were performed according to initial screening results.
Results: The mean age was 46.5 ± 18.6 years; 53.6% were men. All were classified with non-severe disease without overt cardiac manifestations and did not require intensive care. Median hospitalization stay was 17 days and median duration from discharge to screening was 11 days. Cardiac abnormalities were detected in 42.3% including sinus bradycardia (29.9%), newly detected T-wave abnormality (8.2%), elevated troponin level (6.2%), newly detected atrial fibrillation (1.0%), and newly detected left ventricular systolic dysfunction with elevated NT-proBNP level (1.0%). Significant sinus bradycardia with heart rate below 50 bpm was detected in 7.2% COVID-19 survivors, which appeared to be self-limiting and recovered over time. For COVID-19 survivors with persistent elevation of troponin level after discharge or newly detected T wave abnormality, echocardiography and CMR did not reveal any evidence of infarct, myocarditis, or left ventricular systolic dysfunction.
Conclusion: Cardiac abnormality is common amongst COVID-survivors with mild disease, which is mostly self-limiting. Nonetheless, cardiac surveillance in form of ECG and/or serum biomarkers may be advisable to detect more severe cardiac involvement including atrial fibrillation and left ventricular dysfunction.