Patients who suffer from acute heart failure may be nearly twice as likely to die if they get COVID-19, a new study finds.
“Our results support prioritizing heart failure patients for COVID-19 vaccination once it is available,” said researcher Dr. Amardeep Dastidar, a consultant interventional cardiologist at North Bristol NHS Trust and Bristol Heart Institute in England. “In the meantime, heart failure patients of all ages should be considered a high-risk group and be advised to maintain social distance and wear a face mask to prevent infection.”
Heart failure is the progressive weakening of the heart’s ability to pump blood and can cause breathlessness, ankle swelling and fatigue. Sudden and severe worsening of symptoms is a medical emergency that requires hospitalization.
In an analysis that included 283 patients admitted to a single hospital with acute heart failure, the researchers found a substantial but statistically insignificant drop in admissions for acute heart failure during the pandemic.
In the eight weeks before COVID, 164 patients were admitted, compared with 119 patients after COVID, according to the study published Jan. 7 in the journal ESC Heart Failure.
“This finding may reflect public concerns about social distancing at the start of the national lockdown, delayed reporting of symptoms, and anxiety regarding hospital attendance,” Dastidar said in a journal news release. “In support of these explanations, our data demonstrate an increase in referrals during the later weeks of lockdown in line with U.K. media reports encouraging patients to seek medical attention if needed.”
The number of deaths of patients with acute heart failure nearly doubled during the pandemic. Some 11% of patients in the before-COVID group died within 30 days, compared with 21% of the after-COVID group, the researchers found.
“This may suggest a direct interaction or susceptibility to worse outcomes for acute heart failure patients with superimposed COVID infection,” Dastidar said. “It is noteworthy that our region had very low rates of COVID infection during the study and yet a connection with higher mortality was still apparent.”
For more on heart failure, see the American Heart Association.