Up to one in five hospitalized patients have signs of heart injury. Cardiologists are trying to learn whether the virus attacks the organWhile the focus of the COVID-19 pandemic has been on respiratory problems and securing enough ventilators, doctors on the front lines are grappling with a new medical mystery.
In addition to lung damage, many COVID-19 patients are also developing heart problems—and dying of cardiac arrest.
As more data comes in from China and Italy, as well as Washington state and New York, more cardiac experts are coming to believe the COVID-19 virus can infect the heart muscle. An initial study found cardiac damage in as many as 1 in 5 patients, leading to heart failure and death even among those who show no signs of respiratory distress.
That could change the way doctors and hospitals need to think about patients, particularly in the early stages of illness. It also could open up a second front in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, with a need for new precautions in people with preexisting heart problems, new demands for equipment and, ultimately, new treatment plans for damaged hearts among those who survive.