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Long COVID: From Heart to Muscle

J Appl Physiol 2022 Jan 12. From heart to muscle: Pathophysiological mechanisms underlying long-term physical sequelae from SARS-CoV-2 infection Corinna Serviente 1 2, Stephen T Decker 1, Gwenael Layec 1 2 Abstract The long-term sequelae of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are multifaceted and, besides the lungs, impact other organs and tissues, even in cases of mild infection. Along with commonly reported symptoms such as fatigue and dyspnea, a significant proportion of those with prior COVID-19 infection also exhibit signs of cardiac damage, muscle weakness, and ultimately, poor exercise tolerance. This review provides an overview of evidence indicating cardiac impairments and persistent endothelial dysfunction in the peripheral vasculature of those previously infected with COVID-19, irrespective of the severity of the acute phase of illness. Additionally, VO2peak appears to be lower in convalescent patients, which may stem, in part, from alterations in O2 transport such as impaired diffusional O2conductance. Together, the persistent multi-organ dysfunction induced by COVID-19 may set previously healthy individuals on a trajectory towards frailty and disease. Given the large proportion of individuals recovering from COVID-19, it is critically important to better understand the physical sequelae of COVID-19, the underlying biological mechanisms contributing to these outcomes, and the long-term effects on future disease risk. This review highlights relevant literature on the pathophysiology post-COVID-19 infection, gaps in the literature, and emphasizes the need for the development of evidence-based rehabilitation guidelines. Keywords: COVID-19; Cardiovascular Function; Exercise Intolerance; VO2max; Vascular Endothelial Function.


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