Kansas cardiologist seeing uptick in young people with post-COVID symptoms

Coronavirus

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNT) – Rhys Allen, 25, had a bout with coronavirus in late November 2020. Over two months later, he still faces daily headaches, occasional shortness of breath, and even some stomach issues.

“It’s just been a whole bunch of stuff, and it’s been two months,” Allen said.

Allen’s doctor performed an electrocardiogram (EKG) and an X-Ray of his lungs. While his lungs showed clear, his shortness of breath persisted.

Allen was referred to Dr. Igancio De Cicco, a cardiologist with Ascension Via Christi.

“Sometimes unfortunately with post-COVID syndrome, we cannot predict how sick patients are or how they’re going to evolve,” Dr. De Cicco said.

De Cicco reports seeing an uptick in young people coming in weeks or months after having coronavirus with reports of chest pain or shortness of breath. A treadmill test measures patient’s ability to return to their normal routines and assess for permanent damage

Earlier this month, Allen hopped on a treadmill in Dr. De Cicco’s office while attached to an EKG monitor and a blood pressure cuff. A nurse gradually increased the speed on Allen’s treadmill, inching him closer to 80 percent of his projected max heart rate.

“We evaluate for symptoms, electrocardiograph changes, and we also evaluate how much they can run. With this score, we classify patients in mild-risk, moderate-risk or high-risk for having coronary artery disease,” De Cicco explained.

There are many unknowns on how coronavirus impacts the heart, making it difficult to tailor therapy to the individual patient, De Cicco said.

According to a study published by Harvard, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can damage the heart in several ways.

“For example, the virus may directly invade or inflame the heart muscle, and it may indirectly harm the heart by disrupting the balance between oxygen supply and demand,” the study says.

The EKG machine attached to Allen’s body draws a series of heart rates as the nurse increases the treadmill speed. After about 10 minutes, De Cicco is ready to discuss the results.

“This is what we measure, this is what we look into,” De Cicco explains to Allen, pointing at different peaks on the reading.

“You’re good. Nothing wrong with the heart,” De Cicco confirms to Allen with an elbow bump.

The determination allows Allen to resume his normal activities, including exercise which he had been hesitant to push through since experiencing the shortness of breath.

“If I have to put up with headaches or stomach pains, I’m fine with that because I could have it a lot worse. A lot of people don’t go back to living the exact same way they did,” Allen said.

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