People who have had COVID-19 may experience lingering chest pains for up to a year after infection, a new study found.
“Long COVID,” which refers to conditions that linger for months or even years after infection, impacts nearly one in five people who have had the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported.
Researchers at Intermountain Health, a nonprofit health care system based in Salt Lake City, Utah, examined over 140,000 adult patients for cardiovascular symptoms.
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Those who previously had COVID experienced greater degrees of chest pain six months to a year after initially getting the virus, compared to those who tested negative in the same time frame.
The study findings were presented on March 5 at the American College of Cardiology’s 2023 Scientific Conference, held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“Many COVID-19 patients experience symptoms well beyond the acute phase of infection,” lead author Dr. Heidi May, a cardiovascular epidemiologist at Intermountain Health, said in a press release provided by the health care facility.
“Chest pains persisting after experiencing the coronavirus should not be ignored.”
“While we didn’t see any significant rates of major events like heart attack or stroke in patients who had an initial mild infection, we did find chest pains to be a persistent problem, which could be a sign of future cardiovascular complications,” she said in the same release.
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Future research, Dr. May said, is needed to determine long-term patient outcomes.
“It could be that lasting effects of infection on the cardiovascular system are hard to quantify in terms of diagnoses or other events in the short term and won’t be realized until longer follow up,” she said.
Dr. Norman B. Gaylis, who has treated over 1,000 patients at his Long Haul COVID Clinic in Aventura, Florida, said the study findings align with what he has seen at his practice.
He was not involved in the study.
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Along with lingering symptoms such as brain fog, joint pain and extreme fatigue, he said chest pains are a frequent complaint — in some cases, for even longer than a year after a COVID diagnosis.
“It has been established in the medical community that COVID causes inflammation that can lead to heart damage and cause any number of conditions such as myocarditis, pericarditis, arrhythmia, blood clots and even heart failure,” Dr. Gaylis told Online News 72h Digital in an email.
“For these reasons, chest pains persisting after experiencing the coronavirus should not be ignored.”
For anyone experiencing persistent chest pains, Dr. Gaylis said it’s important to see a physician or cardiologist.
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“Some treatments may include oxygen, a daily baby aspirin regimen or sympathetic inhibitors,” he said.
Online News 72h Digital reached out to Intermountain Health for comment on the study.