Researchers at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City have found that patients with atrial fibrillation are at significantly higher risk of complications from COVID-19.
The study looked at 3,119 IHC patients who had a previous diagnosis of atrial fibrillation between March 2020 and May 2021 and tested positive for COVID-19.
The study found that patients with a history of atrial fibrillation who have COVID-19 are not only more likely to require hospitalization, ventilator support, and intensive care, but are also 62% more likely to experience a major cardiovascular event, such as hospitalization for heart failure. These people are also 40% more likely to die than people who don’t have the condition.
“We often think of atrial fibrillation as a more bothersome arrhythmia that can cause unpleasant symptoms and some negative clinical effects, but is generally not life-threatening,” says Dr. Michael J. Cutler, the study’s principal investigator and a heart rhythm disorder. specialist at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute. “However, the findings of our study suggest that patients with atrial fibrillation are at higher risk than the general population for serious complications from COVID-19 disease.”
Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart rhythm disorder in adults. Symptoms include an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm abnormality in the upper chambers of the heart. People with this condition may experience weakness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. The condition also increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. If left untreated, atrial fibrillation can become more severe.
Cutler said it is important for patients with atrial fibrillation to know that they are in a higher risk category and should take appropriate precautions against the virus. These include wearing a mask and social distancing where necessary and getting vaccinated.
The study’s findings were presented this week at the American Heart Association’s 2021 Scientific Session.