Cardiac injury among hospitalized Covid-19 patients tied to higher risk of death in new study

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Posted: Mar 27, 2020 12:00 PM
Updated: Mar 27, 2020 12:00 PM

Heart injury could be a common condition in patients hospitalized with Covid-19, according to a new study that also shows it's linked to a greater risk of death among those patients.

The study, published in the medical journal JAMA Cardiology on Wednesday, found that among a group of Covid-19 patients hospitalized in Wuhan China, 19.7% suffered cardiac injury, which was found to be a risk factor for dying in the hospital.

Cardiac injury, also referred to as myocardial injury, occurs when there is damage to the heart muscle, and such damage can occur when blood flow to the heart is reduced -- which is what causes a heart attack.

Cardiac damage and higher risk of early death

The new study, conducted from January to February, included data on 416 adults who were confirmed to have Covid-19 and were hospitalized at Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University in China.

The data showed that 82 of the patients, or 19.7%, had cardiac injury and 334 patients, or 80.3%, did not. Cardiac injury is defined by an elevation of a protein called troponin that can be measured in the blood, according to the American Heart Association. Troponin and other biomarkers were used to identify cardiac injury in the study.

"An elevated troponin doesn't always mean a heart attack but it does mean myocardial injury or heart damage," said Dr. Erin Michos, the associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, who was not involved in the study.

The data also revealed that the death rate was higher among patients with cardiac injury versus those without: 42 of the patients with cardiac injury, or 51.2%, died versus 15 of those without, or 4.5%.

"We know that cardiac damage is a marker for more mortality," Michos said. "This study clearly showed that even after you account for age and pre-existing cardiovascular disease, there was a still four-fold increased risk of dying. That's really important."

The new study had some limitations, including that the findings are based on observational data, and more research is needed to determine whether similar findings would emerge among a larger and more diverse group of Covid-19 patients.

Though the study showed cardiac injury is a common condition among patients hospitalized with Covid-19, it did not indicate whether Covid-19 directly causes cardiac injury. The mechanism of cardiac injury, or the process in which it occurs, among the patients with Covid-19 remains uncertain, and more evidence is needed to demonstrate whether Covid-19 directly injures the heart, the authors said.

"We need to figure out the mechanism of why do people with evidence of cardiac injury have higher morbidity or mortality? Is it related to the fact that they have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to dying? Is it a marker of individuals that have a more robust immune response that is leading to heart damage?" said Michos of Johns Hopkins.

This and other studies suggest that those with elevated troponin, which measures cardiac injury, seem to be at a greater risk than when the elevation of other types of markers are present, such as inflammatory markers, Michos said.

The researchers also offered some ideas, writing in the study that people with preexisting cardiovascular diseases might be more susceptible to heart injury induced by Covid-19.

"Approximately 30% and 60% of patients with cardiac injury in the present study had a history of coronary heart disease and hypertension, respectively, which were significantly more prevalent than in those without cardiac injury," the researchers wrote in the study.

Also, acute inflammatory responses due to an infection can lead to reduced blood flow in patients with preexisting cardiovascular diseases, the researchers noted. They wrote that "based on these lines of evidence, we hypothesize that an intense inflammatory response superimposed on preexisting cardiovascular disease may precipitate cardiac injury."

Earlier this month, the American College of Cardiology released clinical guidance for cardiovascular care team professionals treating Covid-19 patients. In that guidance, the ACC noted that, so far, the case fatality rates for Covid-19 patients who also have cardiovascular disease is 10.5% and for those who also have hypertension, it's 6%.

A 'potentially important long-term issue'

The new study findings "make a lot of sense," Kevin Heffernan, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Syracuse University in New York, who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email on Wednesday.

A separate study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2018 found a significant association between respiratory infections, especially influenza, and acute heart attack, he said.

Overall, "this is a solid and important study," said Brooks Gump, the Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health at Syracuse University in New York, who was not involved in the study.

When it comes to the public health impacts of Covid-19 and cardiac injury, the study suggests that "two key take-aways are that it's an important marker of those at high-risk for mortality as a consequence of Covid-19 infection and it may be an indicator of future risks associated with the cardiovascular injury from this infection, even if you recover," Gump said.

"Even though they're not dying from that cardiac injury, something about that biomarker is providing some prognostic value beyond other risk factors that were controlled, so it could still be important in terms of identifying high-risk patients that enter the hospital with Covid-19," Gump said.

"The other key here is the potentially important long-term issue," he said. "Many patients who pull through may still have cardiac injury and associated long-term cardiovascular issues as a consequence of Covid-19 infection."

Drs. Chengzhi Yang and Zening Jin, both of Beijing Tiantan Hospital and Capital Medical University in China, co-authored an editorial that published alongside the new study in JAMA Cardiology on Wednesday.

They noted in the editorial that so far there have been only scarce data with respect to cardiovascular complications of Covid-19.

"To date, many patients with COVID-19 are still hospitalized in China and other countries, such as Italy and Iran. Therefore, continued observations of the cardiovascular complications of the disease are needed. In addition, further assessment is needed to identify risk factors for poor prognosis," Yang and Jin wrote. "Emerging as an acute infectious disease, COVID-19 may become a chronic epidemic similar to influenza because of genetic recombination. Therefore, we should be ready for the reemergence of COVID-19 or other coronaviruses."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 515504

Reported Deaths: 10296
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34999558
DeSoto33360432
Hinds32743643
Jackson24906392
Rankin22565405
Lee16455245
Madison14954283
Jones14158248
Forrest13834260
Lauderdale12311323
Lowndes11357193
Lamar10693140
Pearl River9748244
Lafayette8868143
Hancock7849132
Washington7559169
Oktibbeha7229138
Monroe7068179
Pontotoc7033110
Warren6885178
Panola6791135
Neshoba6744210
Marshall6707142
Bolivar6468151
Union643598
Pike5942157
Alcorn5921107
Lincoln5540136
George510680
Prentiss508285
Tippah495683
Itawamba4884107
Scott478999
Tate4777117
Adams4776125
Leflore4749144
Copiah458195
Yazoo458092
Simpson4566117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4319106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4244110
Leake414191
Newton396182
Tishomingo386894
Grenada3789109
Stone366166
Jasper341266
Attala340490
Chickasaw318367
Winston318392
Clay312978
Clarke301695
Calhoun286850
Holmes272889
Smith270552
Yalobusha244947
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220242
Perry214556
Amite210357
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175441
Jefferson Davis174343
Tunica163539
Benton153139
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132239
Franklin126530
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97134
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 848137

Reported Deaths: 16185
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1164052005
Mobile743681384
Madison53497738
Shelby38435371
Baldwin38195589
Tuscaloosa36152644
Montgomery34562782
Lee25655264
Calhoun22630520
Morgan22530411
Etowah20069520
Marshall18846318
Houston17777426
St. Clair16958359
Limestone16195220
Cullman16157306
Elmore15940295
Lauderdale15069307
Talladega14260302
DeKalb13083271
Walker12168380
Blount10779193
Autauga10560157
Jackson10214196
Coffee9435192
Colbert9366210
Dale9044192
Tallapoosa7285202
Russell710065
Chilton7090170
Covington6969197
Escambia6967144
Franklin6364108
Chambers5801142
Marion5437132
Dallas5302210
Pike5129109
Clarke485786
Lawrence4850130
Winston4793110
Geneva4655136
Bibb435795
Barbour370680
Butler3444101
Marengo342993
Monroe338366
Randolph337867
Pickens334890
Fayette331785
Henry321166
Cherokee320364
Hale319189
Crenshaw261678
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay252969
Macon246367
Conecuh193562
Coosa186048
Wilcox178538
Lowndes178468
Bullock152845
Perry141840
Sumter139841
Greene130545
Choctaw94428
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