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Avera Medical Minute: Myocarditis questions answered with North Central Heart Cardiologist

Published: Sep. 13, 2020 at 11:33 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -

As the medical community continues to study the effects of COVID-19 on the body, Myocarditis is a condition gaining attention.

North Central Heart Cardiologist Dr. Christopher Paa describes the condition.

Dr. Christopher Paa In simplest terms, myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and it clinically it is caused by usually one of two things either an infectious agent such as a virus or certain bacteria or by a non-infectious agent such as antibiotics sometimes or chemotherapeutic agents," said Dr. Paa.

He describes the symptoms.

“Having difficulty breathing and chest discomfort. They probably need to be seen if patients have, you know, evidence of fluid overload they start retaining fluid in their legs and other parts of their body. They certainly need to be seen. When it comes to the heart There’s really no such thing as a dumb question so if the patient is concerned, be seen,” said Paa.

There is a reason why the medical community has cautioned specific groups in our population to be especially careful during the pandemic.

“If you look at the literature, the patients that are going to be at the highest risk of developing, you know, severe COVID infection are going to be the patients that are older than 65 and patients with the chronic medical illnesses,” said Paa.

A biopsy will provide a definitive result to diagnose myocarditis, but most patients have tests performed that are less invasive and also an indicator.

“Blood tests or something called a troponin value that we can measure in the bloodstream, to see if there’s been damage to the heart. Generally, they’ll have EKG abnormalities additionally and sometimes we’ll do a test called an ultrasound of the heart or an echocardiogram, and many times, those are abnormal,” said Paa.

If a patient is found to have myocarditis, there are several courses of action.

“The treatment is generally supportive, which means that you know if the patient becomes very very ill and the heart is very weakened, there are certain medications we can put them on that will help it heal and support the patient, but generally it is trying to get the patient through the acute phase of the illness, to get them better,” said Paa.

He believes most asymptomatic patients can recover from this setback.

“Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of kind of extrapolating results of what is a very bad infection called myocarditis to asymptomatic patients and I think it’s caused a lot of concern among, you know, parents of young athletes and things like that and I guess what I would say is, before we jump to conclusions I think you really need to wait for more information to come out and I suspect that in the end, what you’re going to find is asymptomatic patients probably are going to do fine long term,” said Paa.

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