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Severe Covid raises risk of life-threatening heart rhythm problem by 16x

PUNJAB NEWS LINE | April 19, 2023 01:13 PM

LONDON: Patients with severe Covid-19 requiring mechanical ventilation are 16 times more likely to develop life-threatening ventricular tachycardia -- a heart rhythm condition -- within six months compared to those without severe infection, according to a research.

A heart rhythm problem (arrhythmia) is caused by irregular electrical signals in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles). Ventricular tachycardia is a potentially life-threatening heart rhythm disturbance that occurs when the ventricle beats too fast to pump properly causing the body to receive insufficient oxygenated blood.

Severe Covid also raised risks of other heart rhythm disorders, revealed the study, presented at the scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

"The actual likelihood of developing ventricular tachycardia or other arrhythmias after severe Covid-19 is low for the individual patient, but much higher than in those without severe infection," said Dr. Marcus Stahlberg of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

"Covid-19 patients who need mechanical ventilation often have other conditions and adding a heart rhythm disorder may lead to worsened health. These patients should seek medical attention if they develop palpitations or irregular heartbeats after hospital discharge so they can be evaluated for possible arrhythmias," Dr. Stahlberg said.

The study included 3,023 patients with severe Covid-19 who received mechanical ventilation at a Swedish ICU and 28,463 individuals from the general population who had not been in an ICU with Covid-19 requiring mechanical ventilation (control group) between March 2020 and June 2021.

The average follow up was nine months. In patients who had severe Covid-19, the incidence rates per 1,000 person-years of ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, other tachyarrhythmias, and bradycardia/pacemaker implantation were 15.4, 78.4, 99.3 and 8.5, respectively. Corresponding incidence rates in the control group were 0.9, 6.0, 6.7 and 0.9, respectively.

Compared to the control group, patients who had severe Covid-19 requiring mechanical ventilation had a 16-fold risk of ventricular tachycardia, 13-fold risk of atrial fibrillation, 14-fold risk of other tachyarrhythmias, and 9-fold risk of bradycardia/pacemaker implantation.

"An increased risk of arrhythmias following Covid-19 has also been reported previously in the bulk of Covid-19 patients not requiring ICU treatment. Together with our new data and taking into the account that we globally have more than 650 million reported Covid-19 cases, hospital systems should prepare for an increase in patients requiring management for new onset arrhythmias," Dr. Stahlberg said.


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