Scientists from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) have now been able to demonstrate in the world’s largest study in this regard that Covid-19 also affects the function of the heart, lungs and kidneys in the medium term in these cases and is often associated with signs of a leg vein thrombosis. As part of the Hamburg City Health Study (HCHS), which was planned over many years, 443 people were comprehensively examined for the current study after a SARS-CoV-2 infection with only milder symptoms. Their data were compared with those of uninfected participants in the long-term study. The results were published on Wednesday in the European Heart Journal of the European Society of Cardiologists (ESC).
The investigation has been running at the Epidemiological Study Center of the Hamburg University Clinic since mid-2020. “The comprehensive data sets, including magnetic resonance tomography of the heart and brain, both in SARS-CoV-2 sufferers and in the control group, allowed a cross-organ analysis. The knowledge that even a mild course of the disease can lead to damage to various organs in the medium term It is of utmost importance, especially with regard to the current Omicron variant, which mostly seems to be associated with milder symptoms, “said Raphael Twerenbold, Scientific Study Center Director and cardiologist at the clinic, in a broadcast.
The initial situation: The study participants all had a SARS-CoV-2 infection. They reported no, mild, or at most moderate symptoms at the time of infection. The vast majority of them (93 percent) were therefore treated exclusively on an outpatient basis; none of them required intensive care inpatient treatment.
In the scientific study, the cardiovascular and vascular system, the lungs, the kidneys and the brain were examined for function, structure and possible consequential damage an average of ten months after the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The quality of life was recorded using questionnaires. For comparison, 1,328 participants in the long-term observational study of similar age, gender and educational status were selected from the HCHS data set prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lung function test shows reduced lung volume and increased airway resistance
In a direct comparison with the “normal population”, there were signs of medium-term organ damage in the test subjects after surviving SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the lung function test, their lung volume was reduced by around three percent and the airway resistance was slightly increased. The heart examinations showed an average decrease in the pumping power of the organ by one to two percent and a 41 percent increase in a marker protein in the blood, which provides information about the load on the heart.
A central result of the analysis: the ultrasound examination of the legs showed signs of a survived leg vein thrombosis two to three times more often. Likewise, a decrease in kidney function of around two percent was found in the subjects after SARS-CoV-2 infection. The examination of the structure and performance of the brain after a SARS-CoV-2 infection, as well as the questioned quality of life, showed no deterioration in comparison with the control group.
“The results enable us to recognize organic complications at an early stage and to initiate the appropriate therapeutic measures,” said Stefan Blankenberg, HCH study director and medical director of the University Heart and Vascular Center at the Hamburg University Clinic.
According to the University Clinic, the Hamburg City Health Study (HCHS) is the largest local health study in the world. A total of 45,000 hamburgers between the ages of 45 and 74 will be examined over a long period of time in order to identify the risk factors for common diseases such as heart attack, atrial fibrillation, stroke, dementia or heart failure. The aim of the 30 participating clinics and institutes at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf is to develop individualized treatment options and targeted prevention. Around 16,000 people from Hamburg have now been examined