Long COVID concerns: Patients could experience chest pains up to one year later

NEW ORLEANS — Researchers warn that contracting COVID-19 could result in chest pains for up to a year after infection. Studies have shown that even mild COVID-19 cases can cause lingering health complications — commonly called long COVID. Roughly one in five adults who tested positive for the virus reported experiencing long COVID — a condition defined by the persistence of symptoms for four weeks or more after a patient’s initial infection.

Researchers at Intermountain Health in New Orleans aimed to quantify the implications of long COVID, both presently and potentially in the future. They analyzed cardiovascular symptoms in over 140,000 patients and found that those who had tested positive for COVID-19 experienced higher rates of chest pain six months to a year post-infection.

“Many COVID-19 patients experience symptoms well beyond the acute phase of infection,” says Dr. Heidi May, Ph.D., a cardiovascular epidemiologist and principal investigator of the study, in a media release. “While we didn’t see any significant rates of major events like heart attacks or stroke in patients who had an initial mild initial infection, we did find chest pains to be a persistent problem, which could be a sign of future cardiovascular complications.”

Two doctors dressed with the large medical masks and protective gowns and glove look at monitors
Even patients with mild COVID-19 infections can suffer from health complications for months, even years, post infection. Nearly 19% of U.S. adults who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 report having “Long COVID,” where they experience signs and symptoms for four weeks or more after the initial phase of infection. In an effort to quantify what Long COVID means now, and could mean in the future for these patients, researchers from Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City studied nearly 150,000 patients for cardiovascular symptoms. They found that patients who tested positive for COVID-19 had higher rates of chest pain in the six months to a year after the infection. (credit: Intermountain Health)

At the six-month and one-year marks, patients who tested positive for COVID exhibited “significantly” higher rates of chest pain, though the study did not observe increases in other cardiovascular events.

“As of right now, the symptoms aren’t necessary translating into hard outcomes, but that’s something that will need to be reassessed over time,” adds Dr. May. “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.”

The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific conference in New Orleans.

South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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