Hoshiarpur, April 1
The coronavirus infection can cause ‘myocarditis’ in the heart, which is an inflammation and is lethal. Though mostly, it affects lungs and causes pneumonia, a lot of cases have now come forward, where it has affected heart lethally. Dr Virendar Sarwal, cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon on Tuesday informed that a study led by Dr Zhibing Lu at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University has found that 20 per cent of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 had some evidence of heart damage.
Many were not known to have underlying heart disease. But they often had abnormal electrocardiograms in addition to elevated troponin levels, which sometimes soared to levels seen in patients with heart attacks, he said.
The risk of death in such patients is four times more than in a normal patient in heart attack and surprisingly, most of the patients do not have a history of heart disease, said Dr Sarwal. But so much about this new pathogen is unknown and it was not yet clear what might cause heart damage following infection, he said.
“Myocarditis can likely be caused either by the virus itself, or the body’s immune and inflammatory response to the virus,” he said, adding: “It is possible, but not yet established that myocarditis results from an immune system that lurches out of control while trying to turn back the coronavirus, pumping out such excessive levels of chemicals called cytokines that cause inflammation that they damage the lungs and the heart alike.”
“The condition, called a cytokine storm, is more serious in older people and in people with underlying chronic diseases,” said Dr Sarwal, adding that cytokines also promote blood coagulation and interfere with body’s clot-busting system.
At the same time, fever caused by the virus increases the body’s metabolism and the heart’s output of blood. As a result, patient’s heart struggles with an increased demand for oxygen but a reduced supply, an imbalance that may lead to heart damage.
But doctors cannot rule out the possibility that coronavirus directly damages the heart. Other reason of these patients succumbing to heart infliction is heart rhythm problems, where it is arrhythmias or heart blocks and they prove fatal, he said.
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