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Press Release

Catholic Health Research Highlights COVID Impact on Cardiac Function

10 August, 2021

St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center® physicians have had a major research study published in Lancet EClinical, a premier periodical of the medical and scientific community.

Led by Catholic Health Physician Partners’ Chief Medical Officer Avni Thakore, MD, the team examined the effect of COVID-19 on the human heart. Titled Electrocardiographic Manifestations of COVID-19: Effect on Cardiac Activation and Repolarization, the study reports that cardiac electrophysiological abnormalities appear to be associated with COVID-19 infection. The findings were based on the observation of abnormal electrical conduction on electrocardiograms (EKGs) from 828 patients with COVID-19 between March 15th and May 30thth of 2020. The authors postulate that the electrophysiologic abnormalities may be the result of direct infection of the heart muscle by the virus and/or the systemic effects of COVID-19 infection.

“As clinicians taking care of patients at St. Francis Hospital during the COVID-19 surge in New York, we observed marked EKG abnormalities in patients when they first arrived in the Emergency Department,” said Dr. Thakore. “In some cases, these abnormalities put patients at risk for dangerous arrhythmias. We sought to study this to better understand what the underlying cause might be, and to determine if the EKG could be used to better risk stratify our COVID-19 patients and improve their outcomes.”

Electrocardiograms were recorded prior to intervention or administration of stabilizing drugs. The evaluations and analysis was measured against odds ratios for predictors of disease severity and mortality. Catholic Health’s project found that abnormal electrical conduction is an early marker for COVID-19 disease progression and associated with mortality. Electrocardiograms identify the cardiac impact of COVID-19 and can help predict the disease course.

“By using the EKG as an early screening tool in COVID-19 patients, we can help determine which patients are at highest risk for cardiac arrhythmias and poor outcomes,” said Dr. Thakore.  “This is particularly important when resources are limited, to ensure we can provide the best care and deliver the best outcomes for as many patients as possible.”

The study involved the active input of input James Nguyen, MD; Simcha Pollack, PhD; Joshua Stern MD; J. Jane Cao, MD; Joseph Levine, MD; Stefan Muehlbauer MD; Benjamin Chi, BS; Derek Knight and Bhoomi Mehrotra, MD; all medical leaders and experts based at Catholic Health’s St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center, as well as its president, Charles Lucore, MD. Funding for the published study was provided by the St. Francis Foundation.

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