COVID-19 and Cardiac Arrhythmias

Heart Rhythm. 2020 Jun 20;S1547-5271(20)30594-4. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2020.06.016. Online ahead of print.


Background: Early studies suggest that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with a high incidence of cardiac arrhythmias. SARS-CoV-2 infection may cause injury to cardiac myocytes and increase arrhythmia risk.

Objective: To evaluate the risk of cardiac arrest and arrhythmias including incident atrial fibrillation (AF), bradyarrhythmias, and nonsustained ventricular tachycardia (NSVT) in a large urban population hospitalized for COVID-19. We also evaluated correlations between the presence of these arrhythmias and mortality.

Methods: We reviewed the characteristics of all COVID-19 patients admitted to our center over a 9-week period. Throughout hospitalization, we evaluated the incidence of cardiac arrests, arrhythmias and in-patient mortality. We also used logistic regression to evaluate age, sex, race, body mass index, prevalent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and ICU status as potential risk factors for each arrhythmia.

Results: Among 700 patients (mean age 50±18 years, 45% men, 71% African American, and 11% received ICU care), there were 9 cardiac arrests, 25 incident AF events, 9 clinically significant bradyarrhythmias, and 10 NSVTs. All cardiac arrests occurred among patients admitted to the ICU. In addition, admission to the ICU was associated with incident AF (OR 4.68 [95% CI 1.66 - 13.18]) and NSVT (OR 8.92 [95% CI 1.73 - 46.06]) after multivariable adjustment. Also, age and incident AF (OR 1.05 [95% CI 1.02 - 1.09]); and prevalent heart failure and bradyarrhythmias (OR 9.75 [95% CI 1.95 - 48.65]) were independently associated. Only cardiac arrests were associated with acute, in-hospital mortality.

Conclusion: Cardiac arrests and arrhythmias are likely the consequence of systemic illness and not solely the direct effects of COVID-19 infection.

Keywords: COVID-19; arrhythmia; cardiac arrest; mortality.