Coronavirus: Mid and Long-Term Atrio-Ventricular Functional Changes in Children after Recovery from COVID-19

Background: Although most children may experience mild to moderate symptoms and do not require hospitalization, there are little data on cardiac involvement in COVID-19. However, cardiac involvement is accurately demonstrated in children with MISC. The objective of this study was to evaluate cardiac mechanics in previously healthy children who recovered from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection in a long-term follow-up by means of two-dimensional speckle-tracking echocardiography (STE). Methods: We analyzed a cohort of 157 paediatric patients, mean age 7.7 ± 4.5 years (age range 0.3–18 years), who had a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection and were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic for COVID-19. Patients underwent a standard transthoracic echocardiogram and STE at an average time of 148 ± 68 days after diagnosis and were divided in three follow-up groups (<180 days, 180–240 days, >240 days). Patients were compared with 107 (41 females—38%) age- and BSA-comparable healthy controls (CTRL). Results: Left ventricular (LV) global longitudinal strain (post-COVID-19: −20.5 ± 2.9%; CTRL: −21.8 ± 1.7%; p < 0.001) was significantly reduced in cases compared with CTRLs. No significant differences were seen among the three follow-up groups (p = NS). Moreover, regional longitudinal strain was significantly reduced in LV apical-wall segments of children with disease onset during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the first wave (second wave: −20.2 ± 2.6%; first wave: −21.2 ± 3.4%; p = 0.048). Finally, peak left atrial systolic strain was within the normal range in the post-COVID-19 group with no significant differences compared to CTRLs. Conclusions: Our study demonstrated for the first time the persistence of LV myocardial deformation abnormalities in previously healthy children with an asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic (WHO stages 0 or 1) COVID-19 course after an average follow-up of 148 ± 68 days. A more significant involvement was found in children affected during the second wave. These findings imply that subclinical LV dysfunction may also be a typical characteristic of COVID-19 infection in children and are concerning given the predictive value of LV longitudinal strain in the general population.
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