Patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) who develop cardiac injury are reported to experience higher rates of malignant cardiac arrhythmias. However, little is known about these arrhythmias - their frequency, the underlying mechanisms, and their impact on mortality.
We extracted data from a registry (NCT04358029) regarding consecutive inpatients with confirmed COVID-19, were receiving continuous telemetric ECG monitoring, and had a definitive disposition of hospital discharge or death. Between patients who died versus discharged, we compared a primary composite endpoint of cardiac arrest from ventricular tachycardia/fibrillation or bradyarrhythmias such as atrio-ventricular block.
Among 800 COVID-19 patients at Mount Sinai Hospital with definitive dispositions, 140 patients had telemetric monitoring and either died (52) or were discharged (88). The median (IQR) age was 61 years (48 - 74); 73% men; and ethnicity was Caucasian in 34%. Comorbidities included hypertension in 61%, coronary artery disease in 25%, ventricular arrhythmia history in 1.4%, and no significant comorbidities in 16%. Compared to discharged patients, those who died had elevated peak troponin I levels (0.27 vs 0.02 ng/mL), and more primary endpoint events (17% vs 4%, p = 0.01), a difference driven by tachyarrhythmias. Fatal tachyarrhythmias invariably occurred in the presence of severe metabolic imbalance, while atrioventricular block was largely an independent primary event.
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who die experience malignant cardiac arrhythmias more often than those surviving to discharge. However, these events represent a minority of cardiovascular deaths, and ventricular tachyarrhythmias are mainly associated with severe metabolic derangement.