Atrial inflammation and microvascular thrombogenicity are increased in deceased COVID-19 patients

Cardiovasc Pathol. 2023 May-Jun:64:107524. doi: 10.1016/j.carpath.2023.107524. Epub 2023 Jan 14.


Background: Histopathological studies have shown inflammation, cardiomyocyte injury, and microvascular thrombosis in the ventricular myocardium of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, although atrial dysfunction is common in COVID-19, little is known about histopathological changes in the atria of the heart. We therefore analyzed inflammation, cardiomyocyte injury, and microvascular thrombogenicity in the atria of deceased patients with COVID-19.

Methods: Atrial tissue was obtained from autopsied COVID-19 (n=16) patients and control patients (n=10) and analyzed using immunohistochemistry. The infiltration of CD45+ leukocytes, CD3+ T lymphocytes, CD68+ macrophages, MPO+ neutrophils, and Tryptase+ mast cells were quantified as well as cardiomyocyte damage and microvascular thrombosis. In addition, Tissue Factor (TF) and Factor XII (FXII) were quantified as markers of microvascular thrombogenicity.

Results: The numbers of lymphocytes, macrophages, and neutrophils were significantly increased in the atrial myocardium and epicardial atrial adipose tissue of COVID-19 patients compared with the control group. This was accompanied by dispersed cardiomyocyte injury, the occasional presence of microvascular thrombosis, and an increased presence of TF and FXII in the microvascular endothelium.

Conclusions: Severe COVID-19 induces inflammation, cardiomyocyte injury, and microvascular thrombosis in the atria of the heart.

Keywords: Atria; Coagulation factors; First and second wave COVID-19; Inflammation; Thrombi.

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation*
  • COVID-19* / complications
  • COVID-19* / pathology
  • Heart Atria / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Thrombosis* / etiology
  • Thrombosis* / pathology