What autopsies reveal about COVID-19's effects on the heart

Anuja Vaidya (Twitter) - Print  | 

The new coronavirus affects the human body in myriad ways, and autopsies are a key strategy for researchers and clinicians to pinpoint how the virus affects vital organs, The Washington Post reports.

The first set of reports from hospitals and health systems conducting these autopsies were released in late May and June. The autopsies were conducted on patients ranging in age from 32 to 90 years at six U.S. institutions.

Here is what the autopsies have revealed about how COVID-19 affects the heart:

1. Researchers from New York City-based Mount Sinai Health System examined 25 hearts during autopsies and found "very mild" inflammation of the surface of the heart, the Post reports.

2. Though early reports from China showed that a significant percentage of hospitalized coronavirus patients had myocarditis — a condition in which the heart muscle thickens and leaves the heart unable to pump efficiently —the Mount Sinai team told the Post that the inflammation they observed did not look like myocarditis.

3. A team from New York City-based NYU Langone Health that studied seven hearts found an abundance of rare cells called megakaryocytes, which produce platelets that control clotting, according to the Post. These cells are usually only in the bone marrow and lungs.

4. Researchers at LSU Health New Orleans reported preliminary findings from 10 autopsies, and one researcher told the Post that in a couple of the patients who had cardiac arrest in the hospital, the damage was primarily in the lungs and not the heart.

"When you look at a COVID heart, you don't see what you'd expect," Richard S. Vander Heide, MD, PhD, the LSU Health researcher, told the Post.

 

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