COVID-linked health condition can leave kids with extreme heart damage

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a condition that is thought to be related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind COVID-19, can leave kids with extreme heart damage that impacts their entire life, according to a new study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The damage may be so severe that the kids will require monitoring — and possibly even health interventions — for the remainder of their life.

The CDC reports that MIS-C associated with COVID-19 is a condition in which various body parts become inflamed. The inflammation can target major systems and organs, including the brain and heart, putting children at risk of death or severe disability. Experts haven't yet figured out the case of MIS-C, but it has been linked to the respiratory disease behind the ongoing pandemic.

The new study out of Texas reports that in these cases, the child may suffer extreme heart damage within weeks of the initial infection — in fact, the vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 infections in children do not produce symptoms, but can still develop into MIS-C a handful of weeks later.

In reviewing a total of 662 MIS-C cases from around the world, the study found that 71-percent of impacted kids ended up in the ICU and that 60-percent suffered shock. In addition, all of the kids developed a fever, while the majority of them also experienced vomiting and diarrhea.

Ninety percent of these kids were given an EKG and out of them, 56-percent had abnormal results. Furthermore, more than 22-percent of the kids required ventilators to breathe and, tragically, 11 of those kids ultimately died as a result of the condition.

The researchers behind this latest study report that the EKGs were performed on that 90-percent of patients because they suffered such 'significant cardiac manifestation' from MIS-C. A variety of heart damage was found in these kids, including a reduced ability to pump blood to tissues, dilated coronary blood vessels, and — in around 62 kids — stretched, ballooned blood vessels of the heart.

That 10-percent or so of kids who experienced stretching — called a coronary vessel aneurysm — are at the greatest risk of future complications related to the heart damage; they will require considerable follow-up reviews and observations to see whether the damage ultimately heals or remains permanent. Most notably, these kids were healthy before developing MIS-C.