More than half of coronavirus patients who received a heart scan in hospitals demonstrated "abnormalities" in their heart function, according to a major new study. It adds to growing evidence that COVID-19 causes unusually excessive blood-clotting, which can damage organs throughout the body.

The new research based on data from 69 countries, published in the European Heart Journal and commissioned by the British Heart Foundation, found that 55 percent of 1,261 patients scanned had abnormally functioning hearts.

Around one in seven patients who were scanned showed "severe abnormalities" which were likely to have a significant impact on their chances of survival and recovery.

A majority – 901 patients – of those with abnormally functioning hearts had not demonstrated heart problems before, leading the authors of the report to conclude that the coronavirus is responsible for causing heart problems.

The study, carried out by researchers at the British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence at the University of Edinburgh, emphasised that the study was limited only to people who doctors had cause to believe had heart abnormalities in the first place.

The new findings are significant because they add to a growing field of evidence that suggest coronavirus damages not only the heart but also other major organs, which seems to stem from blood-clotting.

A growing body of evidence has charted unusual blood-clotting in COVID-19 patients, leading to strokes, heart failure, pulmonary embolisms, and 'COVID toes'. The finding offered a possible explanation as to why there has been a higher rate of death from COVID-19 among people with underlying heart conditions.

The heart has to work harder in coronavirus patients because the virus causes inflammation and fluid build-up in the lungs, The Guardian reported. That can cause the heart either to fail or for its tissue to become damaged, while in some cases the virus can infect the muscle tissue directly.

Marc Dweck, a consultant cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh who helped lead the research said, "COVID-19 is a complex, multisystem disease which can have profound effects on many parts of the body, including the heart. Many doctors have been hesitant to order echocardiograms for patients with COVID-19 because it's an added procedure which involves close contact with patients. Our work shows that these scans are important – they improved the treatment for a third of patients who received them."

"Damage to the heart is known to occur in severe flu, but we were surprised to see so many patients with damage to their heart with COVID-19 and so many patients with severe dysfunction. We now need to understand the exact mechanism of this damage, whether it is reversible and what the long-term consequences of COVID-19 infection are on the heart."

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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