COVID-19 patients with abnormal heart rhythms face a greater risk of death

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients with abnormal heart rhythms may be susceptible to “markedly worse outcomes,” according to new data to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020 virtual meeting.

The researchers focused on 435 COVID-19 patients who were treated at a single health system from March to June 2020. While 7.8% of those patients were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib) or atrial flutter for the first time, another 15.9% had a history of AFib or atrial flutter. Overall, the team observed, approximately one in five patients experienced one of those two types of heart arrhythmias.

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients with a history of AFib or atrial flutter face a much higher risk of death or ICU mortality, the researchers found. Also, arrhythmias occurring in the hospital were associated with a higher risk of death, ICU mortality and multi-organ failure.

“Our study suggests that the combination of COVID-19 and atrial arrhythmias may create a pathologic synergy that markedly increases the risk for major adverse cardiac events and death,” lead author Zaniar Ghazizadeh, MD, an internal medicine resident at Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut, said in a statement. “COVID-19 places patients at a high risk for abnormal heart rhythms that are, in turn, associated with markedly worse outcomes including death and multi-organ failure. Patients and physicians need to monitor for these arrhythmias closely and treatments needs to be timely.”

AHA Scientific Sessions 2020 is scheduled for Nov. 13-17, 2020. More information on the virtual event is available here.