However, patients did overwhelmingly record an elevated level of heart enzymes. The implications of this are still unknown, although it is a marker for future heart disease in one in seven patients.
Professor Ravinay said: “That is significant: if you’d got COVID sick enough to be admitted to hospital, there is evidence of your heart expressing some form of unhappiness.″
Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute executive director and St Vincent’s Hospital cardiologist professor Jason Kovacic, who was not involved with the study, said the lower rates of heart complications in Australia could be attributed to the hospital system being under less stress than in some places overseas.
“The patients in this study received the very high level of care that we are accustomed to,” he said.
He said the most important finding in the study was 14 per cent of the hospitalised patients died following their admission, indicating the need for widespread vaccination coverage to protect against severe disease.
“And these are the people that actually got to hospital,” he said. “We have seen recently occasionally people dying at home: so, mortality for the virus really is very high in severe cases.”
As thousands of patients infected with the Delta variant of COVID-19 enter NSW’s hospitals, Professor Ravinay said the ongoing study would be able to next examine the impact of the Delta variant on heart health, amid reports cases abroad are experiencing higher rates of heart problems, such as inflammation of the heart, known as myocarditis.
“Certainly there’s more evidence of cardiac involvement, possibly serious,” he said.
“We hope to report our next findings in the next few months.”
Professor Kovacic said at St Vincent’s they were “potentially seeing more cardiac complications” among the younger cohort of cases infected in NSW’s current outbreak, although overall numbers were still very low.
“What is the most problematic with COVID-19 is the death rate,” he said.
“Lung complications, pulmonary complications, going into ICU: once people are in ICU and intubated, the complication and mortality rates are very high.”
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