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Original Investigation
July 27, 2020

Outcomes of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Patients Recently Recovered From Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Author Affiliations
  • 1Institute for Experimental and Translational Cardiovascular Imaging, DZHK Centre for Cardiovascular Imaging, University Hospital Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 2Department of Biomedical Sciences and Morphological and Functional Imaging, University of Messina, Messina, Italy
  • 3Department of Infectious Diseases, University Hospital Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 4Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, University Hospital Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 5Department of Cardiology, Goethe University Hospital Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 6Department of Hospital Therapy No. 1, I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, Moscow, Russia
  • 7Institute for Cardiac Diagnostic and Therapy, Berlin, Germany
JAMA Cardiol. Published online July 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2020.3557
Key Points

Question  What are the cardiovascular effects in unselected patients with recent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Findings  In this cohort study including 100 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 identified from a COVID-19 test center, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging revealed cardiac involvement in 78 patients (78%) and ongoing myocardial inflammation in 60 patients (60%), which was independent of preexisting conditions, severity and overall course of the acute illness, and the time from the original diagnosis.

Meaning  These findings indicate the need for ongoing investigation of the long-term cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19.


Importance  Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to cause considerable morbidity and mortality worldwide. Case reports of hospitalized patients suggest that COVID-19 prominently affects the cardiovascular system, but the overall impact remains unknown.

Objective  To evaluate the presence of myocardial injury in unselected patients recently recovered from COVID-19 illness.

Design, Setting, and Participants  In this prospective observational cohort study, 100 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 illness were identified from the University Hospital Frankfurt COVID-19 Registry between April and June 2020.

Exposure  Recent recovery from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection, as determined by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction on swab test of the upper respiratory tract.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Demographic characteristics, cardiac blood markers, and cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging were obtained. Comparisons were made with age-matched and sex-matched control groups of healthy volunteers (n = 50) and risk factor–matched patients (n = 57).

Results  Of the 100 included patients, 53 (53%) were male, and the mean (SD) age was 49 (14) years. The median (IQR) time interval between COVID-19 diagnosis and CMR was 71 (64-92) days. Of the 100 patients recently recovered from COVID-19, 67 (67%) recovered at home, while 33 (33%) required hospitalization. At the time of CMR, high-sensitivity troponin T (hsTnT) was detectable (greater than 3 pg/mL) in 71 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 (71%) and significantly elevated (greater than 13.9 pg/mL) in 5 patients (5%). Compared with healthy controls and risk factor–matched controls, patients recently recovered from COVID-19 had lower left ventricular ejection fraction, higher left ventricle volumes, and raised native T1 and T2. A total of 78 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 (78%) had abnormal CMR findings, including raised myocardial native T1 (n = 73), raised myocardial native T2 (n = 60), myocardial late gadolinium enhancement (n = 32), or pericardial enhancement (n = 22). There was a small but significant difference between patients who recovered at home vs in the hospital for native T1 mapping (median [IQR], 1119 [1092-1150] ms vs 1141 [1121-1175] ms; P = .008) and hsTnT (4.2 [3.0-5.9] pg/dL vs 6.3 [3.4-7.9] pg/dL; P = .002) but not for native T2 mapping. None of these measures were correlated with time from COVID-19 diagnosis (native T1: r = 0.07; P = .47; native T2: r = 0.14; P = .15; hsTnT: r = −0.07; P = .50). High-sensitivity troponin T was significantly correlated with native T1 mapping (r = 0.33; P < .001) and native T2 mapping (r = 0.18; P = .01). Endomyocardial biopsy in patients with severe findings revealed active lymphocytic inflammation. Native T1 and T2 were the measures with the best discriminatory ability to detect COVID-19–related myocardial pathology.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this study of a cohort of German patients recently recovered from COVID-19 infection, CMR revealed cardiac involvement in 78 patients (78%) and ongoing myocardial inflammation in 60 patients (60%), independent of preexisting conditions, severity and overall course of the acute illness, and time from the original diagnosis. These findings indicate the need for ongoing investigation of the long-term cardiovascular consequences of COVID-19.