Covid-19 can cause entire spectrum of heart diseases, says cardiologist


COVID-19 is affecting the heart, as studies have shown, and patients with pre-existing heart conditions also have a higher incidence of severe disease, making it a double-edged sword, Sameer Gupta, an interventional cardiologist at the Metro Hospitals and Heart Institute in Delhi, says.

Recovered COVID-19 patients are coming back with stress cardiomyopathy--a temporary weakening of the heart muscle--and myocarditis (weakness of the heart muscle due to inflammation), Gupta says in this interview, explaining that this is an effect of the massive infection or inflammation, and not of the virus itself.

Gupta specialises in interventional cardiovascular and peripheral procedures. He completed his medicine residency at Penn State University, his fellowship at the University of South Florida, and interventional cardiology fellowship at the University of Chicago. Gupta has recovered from COVID-19 himself.

Edited excerpts:

As a cardiologist, what are you seeing today in terms of the symptoms or the progression of COVID-19?

COVID does affect the heart, and patients who have heart disease also have a higher incidence of bad roblems with COVID. So, it is kind of a double-edged sword.

We have seen patients who have heart failure (which means the heart muscle is weak to begin with), blockages, and coronary artery disease have a higher incidence of bad prognosis (or death) with COVID. Also, some of the risk factors that cause these problems like diabetes and hypertension also increase the risk of bad problems with COVID.

On the other hand, COVID--in somebody who does not have heart disease--also causes the entire spectrum of heart disease. It increases the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). We have seen that there is a higher incidence of [heart] muscle weakness, and heart attacks in patients with COVID.

What are the trends amongst the patients whom you have treated? Have they come back later with problems related to the heart?

I am an interventional cardiologist, so I am not treating COVID patients directly. But we do get consults. We see patients who have either contracted COVID in the past, or patients with heart disease who now have COVID and go to another facility. The prognosis has not been very good in some of these patients. I remember one patient distinctly. He had a massive heart attack. We treated him, and he went home. Then he developed COVID after a few weeks and had a bad prognosis, and he ultimately died.

So we have seen people come back with COVID. We have also seen patients who had COVID come in with other heart issues.

These are people who have recovered from COVID technically, but have subsequently shown heart issues. Is that correct?

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