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COVID-19 vaccine and heart patients

Our experts answer questions about vaccine-related myocarditis and pericarditis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its partner agencies are actively monitoring reports of myocarditis and pericarditis developing in individuals after receiving SARS-CoV2 mRNA vaccines used to prevent COVID-19.


Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. In both cases, the body’s immune system causes inflammation in response to an infection (i.e., viruses) or some other trigger (i.e., drugs).


Earlier this year, a multidisciplinary panel of VCU Health clinicians and researchers responded to questions and concerns about myocarditis and pericarditis as related to the COVID-19 vaccine. The Q&A was published on Pauley’s website, and an abbreviated version is below.


How common is it for someone with COVID-19 to experience myocarditis or pericarditis?

The likelihood in patients with COVID-19 is very low. It is estimated that about 150 out of every 100,000 people who develop infection will develop myocarditis or pericarditis.


What are the symptoms and signs of myocarditis or pericarditis secondary to COVID-19?

Myocarditis and pericarditis commonly present with chest pain and shortness of breath. Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain can also occur.


How serious are myocarditis or pericarditis secondary to COVID-19?

Most cases of myocarditis and pericarditis are mild and self-limiting, with symptoms resolving within a few days and without consequences. In some cases, however, treatment is required and, in a small number of cases, the illness can be very serious due to the amount of injury to the heart in myocarditis (fulminant myocarditis) or due to the recurrent nature of unresolving chest pain (recurrent pericarditis), or severe inflammatory nature of the response.


How are myocarditis or pericarditis secondary to COVID-19 diagnosed and treated?

The diagnosis of myocarditis and pericarditis are based on a clinical examination paired with laboratory testing and imaging of the heart structures by echocardiography and/or cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. The treatment depends on the amount of inflammation and injury and generally consists of anti-inflammatory therapies and restriction from exercise.

VCU Health’s COVID-19 expert multidisciplinary panel

  • Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of clinical research unit, C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research
  • Gonzalo M. Bearman, M.D., M.P.H., chair, Division of Infectious Diseases and hospital epidemiologist/medical director of VCU Healthcare Infection Prevention Program
  • Kerri A. Carter, M.D., FAAP, pediatric cardiologist
  • Stamatina Danielides, M.D., rheumatologist
  • Greg Hundley, M.D., director, VCU Health Pauley Heart Center, chair of cardiology
  • Naveed A. Naz, M.D., cardiologist
  • Keyur B. Shah, M.D., cardiologist
  • Michael P. Stevens, M.D., infectious disease specialist
  • Jeremy S. Turlington, M.D., cardiologist



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