Cardiovascular complications of severe acute respiratory syndrome

Postgrad Med J. 2006 Feb;82(964):140-4. doi: 10.1136/pgmj.2005.037515.


Background and aims: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a virulent viral infection that affects a number of organs and systems. This study examined if SARS may result in cardiovascular complications.

Methods and results: 121 patients (37.5 (SD13.2) years, 36% male) diagnosed to have SARS were assessed continuously for blood pressure, pulse, and temperature during their stay in hospital. Hypotension occurred in 61 (50.4%) patients in hospital, and was found in 28.1%, 21.5%, and 14.8% of patients during the first, second, and third week, respectively. Only one patient who had transient echocardiographic evidence of impaired left ventricular systolic function required temporary inotropic support. Tachycardia was present in 87 (71.9%) patients, and was found in 62.8%, 45.4%, and 35.5% of patients from the first to third week. It occurred independent of hypotension, and could not be explained by the presence of fever. Tachycardia was also present in 38.8% of patients at follow up. Bradycardia only occurred in 18 (14.9%) patients as a transient event. Reversible cardiomegaly was reported in 13 (10.7%) patients, but without clinical evidence of heart failure. Transient atrial fibrillation was present in one patient. Corticosteroid therapy was weakly associated with tachycardia during the second (chi(2) = 3.99, p = 0.046) and third week (chi(2) = 6.53, p = 0.01), although it could not explain tachycardia during follow up.

Conclusions: In patients with SARS, cardiovascular complications including hypotension and tachycardia were common but usually self limiting. Bradycardia and cardiomegaly were less common, while cardiac arrhythmia was rare. However, only tachycardia persisted even when corticosteroid therapy was withdrawn.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / virology*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / complications*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / physiopathology