COVID-19 Linked to Multiple Cardiovascular Presentations

Megan Brooks

April 06, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

It's becoming clear that COVID-19 infection can involve the cardiovascular system in many different ways, and this has "evolving" potential implications for treatment, say a team of cardiologists on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle in New York City.

In an article published online April 3 in Circulation, Justin Fried, MD, Division of Cardiology, Columbia University, New York City, and colleagues present four case studies of COVID-19 patients with various cardiovascular presentations.

Case 1 is a 64-year-old woman whose predominant symptoms on admission were cardiac in nature, including chest pain and ST elevation, but without fever, cough, or other symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.

"In patients presenting with what appears to be a typical cardiac syndrome, COVID-19 infection should be in the differential during the current pandemic, even in the absence of fever or cough," the clinicians advise.

Case 2 is a 38-year-old man with cardiogenic shock and acute respiratory distress with profound hypoxia who was rescued with veno-arterial-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VV ECMO).

The initial presentation of this patient was more characteristic of severe COVID-19 disease, and cardiac involvement only became apparent after the initiation of ECMO, Fried and colleagues report.

Based on this case, they advise a "low threshold" to assess for cardiogenic shock in patients with acute systolic heart failure related to COVID-19. If inotropic support fails in these patients, intra-aortic balloon pump should be considered first for mechanical circulatory support because it requires the least maintenance from medical support staff.

In addition, in their experience, when a patient on VV ECMO develops superimposed cardiogenic shock, adding an arterial conduit at a relatively low blood flow rate may provide the necessary circulatory support without inducing left ventricular distension, they note.

"Our experience confirms that rescue of patients even with profound cardiogenic or mixed shock may be possible with temporary hemodynamic support at centers with availability of such devices," Fried and colleagues report.

Case 3 is a 64-year-old woman with underlying cardiac disease who developed profound decompensation with COVID-19 infection.

This case demonstrates that the infection can cause decompensation of underlying heart failure, and may lead to mixed shock, the clinicians say.

"Invasive hemodynamic monitoring, if feasible, may be helpful to manage the cardiac component of shock in such cases. Medications that prolong the QT interval are being considered for COVID-19 patients and may require closer monitoring in patients with underlying structural heart disease," they note.

Case 4 is a 51-year-old man who underwent a heart transplant in 2007 and a kidney transplant in 2010. He had COVID-19 symptoms akin to those seen in nonimmunosuppressed patients with COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a "unique challenge" for solid organ transplant recipients, with only "limited" data on how to adjust immunosuppression during COVID-19 infection, Fried and colleagues say.

The pandemic also creates a challenge for the management of heart failure patients on the heart transplant wait list; the risks of delaying a transplant need to be balanced against the risks of donor infection and uncertainty regarding the impact of post-transplant immunosuppression protocols, they note.

As reported by Medscape Medical News, the American Heart Association has developed a COVID-19 patient registry to collect data on cardiovascular conditions and outcomes related to COVID-19 infection.

To participate in the registry, contact

Circulation. Published online April 3, 2020. Full text


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