Patients with COVID-19 who were admitted to an intensive care unit were 10 times more likely than other hospitalized COVID-19 patients to suffer cardiac arrest or heart rhythm disorders, according to a new study from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Moreover, researchers say the results suggest that cardiac arrests and arrhythmias suffered by some patients with COVID-19 are likely triggered by a severe, systemic form of the disease and are and not the sole consequence of the viral infection. The findings which differ significantly from early reports that showed a high incidence of arrhythmias among all COVID-19 patients provide more clarity about the role of the novel coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, and the disease it causes, COVID-19, in the development of arrhythmias, including irregular heart rate (atrial fibrillation), slow heart rhythms (bradyarrhythmia) or rapid heart rate that stops by itself within 30 seconds (non-sustained ventricular tachycardia).
The findings, published in the Heart Rhythm Journal, differ significantly from early reports which showed a high incidence of arrhythmias among all Covid-19 patients, according to the scientists.
Senior author Rajat Deo from the University of Pennsylvania said, “In order to best protect and treat patients who develop Covid-19, it’s critical for us to improve our understanding of how the disease affects various organs and pathways within our body, including our heart rhythm abnormalities.”
Earlier studies had suggested that Covid-19 is associated with a high incidence of cardiac arrhythmias, particularly among critically ill patients with early reports indicating that 44 per cent of patients admitted to the ICU suffered heartbeat rhythm disturbance. According to the researchers, heart rhythm problems occur when electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats don’t work properly, causing the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly.
However, the scientists evaluated the risk and incidence of cardiac arrest and arrhythmias among 700 hospitalized patients with Covid-19. They identified a total of 53 arrhythmic events-nine patients who suffered cardiac arrest, 25 patients with atrial fibrillation who required treatment, nine patients with clinically significant slow heart rhythms, and 10 people who had a rapid heart rate that stooped by itself within 30 seconds. Of the 700 patients hospitalized, they said about 11 percent were admitted to the ICU.
Also, the scientists found that cardiac arrest and arrhythmias were more likely to occur among patients in an ICU compared to the other hospitalized patients. “More research is needed to assess whether the presence of cardiac arrhythmias has long-term health effects on patients who were hospitalized for Covid-19,” Rajat Deo said.