According to a new study, the occurrence of myocarditis in COVID-19 patients is less common than previously thought. Previously reported rates of myocarditis in COVID-19 patients ranged from 14 per cent among recovered athletes to 60 per cent in middle-aged and older recovered patients.

A report in the journal Cardiovascular Pathology detailed the analysis of the autopsies of 277 people who had died from COVID-19 in nine countries. The rate of myocarditis in these patients was between 1.4 per cent and 7.2 per cent, the researchers found.

Author of the study, Dr Richard Vander Heide, professor of medicine at Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Centre in New Orleans, said: “Although it is clear that COVID-19 impacts the heart and blood vessels, to date, it has been difficult to know how reproducible any changes are due to the relatively small sample size of most autopsy series.”

The findings suggest that myocarditis caused by COVID-19 may be relatively rare, according to Vander Heide and co-author Dr Marc Halushka, professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“What we have learned is that myocarditis is not nearly as frequent in COVID-19 as has been thought. This finding should be useful for our clinical colleagues to reconsider how to interpret blood tests and heart radiology studies,” Halushka said.

Vander Heide said the large number of cases studied gave the researchers a better idea about what health changes to expect. He explained that even a low myocarditis rate of 1.4 per cent would predict hundreds of thousands of cases of myocarditis in severe COVID-19, due to the large numbers of infected patients.

The researchers have created a checklist for pathologists to use during autopsies of COVID-19 patients, too allow consistency in investigating and reporting findings.

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