Two studies show evidence there could be lasting health implications from COVID-19 affecting the heart.

In a German study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, 100 patients at University Hospital Frankfurt who contracted COVID-19 were tested for heart injuries about two months after recovering from the virus. The study found 78 of those participants had heart abnormalities while 60 were found to have inflammation of the heart muscle. The patients were relatively healthy individuals in their 40s and 50s.

The study used cardiac magnetic resonance imaging to determine the effects of COVID-19 on the patients’ hearts. A third of the participants in the study had been hospitalized for COVID-19 while the remaining patients recovered at home.

The use of cardiac magnetic resonance imaging allowed doctors to identify the heart injuries, which may have gone undetected if patients exhibited no symptoms. Echocardiograms, commonly used for heart issues, would not have detected the problems.

“When this came to our attention, we were struck,” Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and an editor at JAMA Cardiology, told USA Today. “We’re not saying that COVID-19 causes heart failure … but it presents early evidence that there’s potentially injury to the heart.”

The findings in the study are further supported by a Cleveland Clinic report published in the JAMA Network Open medical journal earlier this month. In this study, researchers found cases of stress cardiomyopathy doubled during the coronavirus pandemic.

Broken heart syndrome, as it is often called, typically occurs during physical or emotional distress. It can cause heart muscle failure, possibly leading to long-term effects.

While the evidence suggests that COVID-19 could pose heart issues, researchers say more information is needed to understand the long-term effects of the virus on the heart.

“We need to understand longer term clinical symptoms and outcome that might occur in patients who’ve had it and recovered,” Thomas Maddox, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Science and Quality Committee said. “That will just take some time to look at as more and more people get the infection and recover.”

Globally there have been more than 17 million positive cases of the coronavirus with deaths from COVID-19 toppingr 667,000 COVID-19 as of noon on Thursday, Johns Hopkins University said.

Experts from the Cleveland Clinic said that broken heart sydrome or Takotsubo syndrome increased during the coronavirus pandemic. CC0 Public Domain