A University of Westminster review by Dr David Gaze has risen awareness that some cardiovascular values in blood tests that are typically high in heart attack patients are elevated in COVID-19 cases. The review is helping to inform clinicians and prevent clinical confusion which would be detrimental to COVID-19 patients.
In the review, Dr Gaze summarises and explains the current published research surrounding COVID-19 and how it affects patients with heart conditions. It explains that the vast majority of people infected with coronavirus which causes COVID-19 do not display any signs of ever having the virus, or have mild symptoms ranging from a dry cough to a raised body temperature.
He noted that 98 per cent of these people recover with no significant health problems, however in some patients, there is a greater response to the virus and they require hospital treatment for pneumonia and organ damage such as in the heart and kidneys.
Those with the most serious forms of COVID-19 are often elderly and have other underlying health problems. Underlying long-term (chronic) lung diseases accounts for only 6 per cent of severe COVID-19 cases but 10 per cent have underlying heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
As the clinical understanding of the disease broadens, it is understood that these patients mount a significant inflammatory response to the virus. This can cause inflammation in the heart muscle known as myocarditis.
A blood test called troponin, normally used to detect heart attacks is now being used in COVID-19 patients as a marker of cardiac damage due to myocarditis. Monitoring of troponin concentrations can indicate if patients are becoming worse or responding to treatment by increasing or decreasing over time respectively.
Discussing the review of research, Dr Gaze said: “Troponin has been in routine use in emergency medicine and cardiology for over 20 years. In addition to its use as a marker for heart attacks, it is proving to be a valuable test to monitor the progress of patients with severe Covid-19 infections.”