Health Report: Fairbanks doctors say rare vaccine heart inflammation not a concern

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 4:23 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Fairbanks health experts have said that cases of heart inflammation connected to COVID-19 vaccines are not something that patients should be worried about.

The CDC has reported rare cases of heart inflammation in recipients of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, mostly in younger males aged 16 and older.

According to Dr. Romel Wrenn, Section Chair for Cardiology for Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, heart inflammation caused by vaccines is nothing new. “It’s been reported with flu vaccines but it’s not anything that would hit the news because COVID is popular. Trying to get people vaccinated is also very popular too, but of course we have vaccinated many more people than we normally vaccinate. We also know for instance with the smallpox vaccine, it’s not uncommon. It’s like five out of every 10,000. But nobody gets smallpox vaccinations anymore other than the military. So we do see military people annually after smallpox vaccinations who have a similar type of problem. Probably a bit more serious though in those patients than in Moderna and Pfizer because with Moderna and Pfizer we’re not dealing with a live virus. In terms of the patients we’ve cared for, we’ve had a few to come through. Generally they are treated as outpatients and do very well.”

Dr. Wrenn also stated that most cases of vaccine caused heart inflammation are also not affecting the heart muscles themselves. “We have to distinguish heart inflammation from inflammation of the pericardium, the sac around the heart. So for most of these patients, it’s not truly inflammation of the heart muscles. Inflammation, or Myocarditis, would be inflammation of the actual heart muscle, and for most of these patients, there may be a little of that but mostly it’s inflammation around the heart, the pericardium. When we do blood tests to look for inflammation of the heart muscle, we measure cardiac enzymes, and the most common enzyme to be measured is troponin.”

Most patients who experience heart inflammation are completely fine and don’t require any serious medical assistance, according Dr. Wrenn. “In a majority of cases, it’s not a serious concern. In fact, just 20 minutes ago I read an echocardiogram on a 20 year old with elevated troponin and chest pain who was recently vaccinated. The echocardiogram was completely normal, the EKG was completely normal, and that patient is now being treated on an outpatient basis and we expect that person to have a very good outcome.”

The CDC still recommends vaccinations for those ages 12 and older. For more information on vaccination events and clinics, visit the Department of Health and Social Services website.

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