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  • Writer's picturePam King Sams

Penn Medicine Cardiologists shed new light on COVID-19 and Cardiac Arrhythmias.

A higher rate of cardiac arrhythmias has been observed in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, but new research suggests there’s more behind that trend than the virus itself.

The study, published in Heart Rhythm Journal, explored data from 700 COVID-19 patients admitted to a single facility in Pennsylvania from March 6 to May 19, 2020. Eleven percent of the cohort was admitted to the ICU, and all nine cardiac arrests occurred among those patients.

In addition, ICU admission was specifically associated with atrial fibrillation (AF) and nonsustained ventricular tachycardia; cardiac arrests were associated with “acute, in-hospital mortality.”

These findings, the authors explained, highlight why cardiac arrests and arrythmias “are likely the consequence of systemic illness and not solely the direct effect of COVID-19 infection.”

“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,” senior author Rajat Deo, MD, MTR, an associate professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, said in a statement. “Our findings suggest that non-cardiac causes such as systemic infection, inflammation and illness are likely to contribute more to the occurrence of cardiac arrest and arrhythmias than damaged or infected heart cells due to the viral infection.”

More research is still needed, Deo added, and specialists should work to “launch studies to evaluate the most effective and safest strategies for long-term anticoagulation and rhythm management in this population.”

The full study from Heart Rhythm Journal can be read here. Read about additional research focused on COVID-19 and cardiac arrhythmias here.

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