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Study: Heart function returns quickly in children with COVID-19-related MIS-C

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Study: Heart function returns quickly in children with COVID-19-related MIS-C
Most children who develop heart problems after getting infected with COVID-19 recover quickly, a new study has found. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Most children who develop a rare, but sometimes severe, heart complication due to COVID-19 recover quickly, a study published Wednesday by the Journal of the American Heart Association found.

The complication, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, which has symptoms similar to those of the rare disorder Kawasaki disease, resolves in about three months, with full heart function restored, the data showed.

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MIS-C, which is caused by heart inflammation linked with COVID-19 most often affects the organ's left ventricle, though normal function returned within the first week of diagnosis in most cases, the researchers said.

Though about four out of five child patients in the study saw significant damage to the heart during the first week of their illness, most did not suffer lasting coronary artery damage, according to the researchers.

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"Our study suggests that patients who suffered MIS-C could return to normal physical activity and sports participation after three to four months," study co-author Dr. Daisuke Matsubara told UPI in an email.

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From a "cardiac standpoint, the long-term effects of the virus on children could be better than those on adults," said Matsubara, a pediatric cardiologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

MIS-C is a new illness identified during the COVID-19 pandemic that affects children about four to six weeks after infection, according to the American Heart Association.

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It has some of the same symptoms as Kawasaki disease, a disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, typically in children age 5 years and younger, the association says.

However, MIS-C is associated with more profound inflammation that can affect different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and digestive tract.

About 80% of children who get sick enough from COVID-19 to require hospital care develop MIS-C, which can cause the heart to lose some of its ability to pump properly, coronary artery dilation and leaking heart valves, based on earlier studies.

RELATED Rare COVID-19-linked syndrome more likely in Black, Hispanic, younger children

Previous research has suggested that these symptoms typically resolve within a few months, though that was earlier strains of the virus.

The United States has seen a rise in hospitalizations among children since the emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus in November, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia researchers evaluated 60 children hospitalized between April 2020 and January of last year and compared their heart health and function to those of 60 healthy, similarly aged controls.

None of the children was diagnosed initially with COVID-19 before the onset of MIS-C symptoms, and 60% male, while just under half were Black and 27% were White, the researchers said.

Participants with MIS-C, who had an average age of about 10 years, were treated with intravenous immunoglobulin and/or systemic steroids, according to the researchers.

During their initial hospitalization, 70% of the infected study participants had evidence of some heart malfunction, though all scans were normal by the three-month follow-up, the researchers said.

"MIS-C is a newly described disease and what we know now may be only a small part of this disease," Matsubara said.

"Taking this into account, we recommend any [children eligible] to get the vaccination," he said.

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