COVID-19 raises risk for cardiac arrest death, study finds

COVID-19 raises risk for cardiac arrest death, study finds
COVID-19 patients who have a cardiac arrest in the hospital are more likely to die than those without the virus and may see delays in treatment, a new study suggests. File photo by toysf400/Shutterstock

March 2 (UPI) -- COVID-19 patients who suffer a cardiac arrest while in the hospital are more likely to die than those who are not infected, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open found.

Moreover, patients infected patients often experience delays in care for their heart issues because of virus fears, the study saud.


According to the data patients who tested positive for the virus had a 35% higher risk for death if they suffered cardiac arrest in the hospital. And they waited up to 30% longer to receive treatment for cardiac arrest, including cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation, the data showed.

Although delays in resuscitation may have contributed to the lower survival rate in COVID-19 patients with cardiac arrest, those with the virus who received timely treatment for their heart problems still were more likely to die than uninfected patients, researchers said.

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"COVID-19 patients who experience a cardiac arrest are usually severely ill with respiratory and multi-organ failure, whole body inflammation and the risk of blood clots," study co-author Dr. Saket Girotra told UPI in an email.

"A higher severity of illness likely explains why these patients have poor survival when they arrest when compared to non-COVID patients," said Girotra, an associate professor of interventional cardiology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City.


Studies published early in the pandemic indicated that fewer than 3% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who then suffered a cardiac arrest survived.

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This poor survival rate, plus fears that interventions such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation. would expose healthcare workers to the virus, Girotra said.

Although the survival rate for COVID-19 patients with cardiac arrest in this study -- about 12% -- was still lower than that for uninfected patients -- about 24% -- it was high enough to consider treatment for the heart issue, he said.

"Our findings suggest that COVID-19 infection alone should not be considered the sole factor for making decisions regarding CPR and should prompt discussion regarding goals of care before patients arrest," Girotra said.

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Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping effectively, leading to a sudden loss of blood flow in the body. It is potentially fatal, unless patients receive immediate treatment with cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a procedure involving chest compressions and breathing assistance, the American Heart Association says.

Cardiac arrest patients also are treated with defibrillation, which delivers an electrical current to the heart to stimulate it, and the drug epinephrine, or adrenaline, which is designed to make the heart pump faster.


Girotra and his colleagues analyzed data on nearly 25,000 people who suffered an in-hospital cardiac arrest in the United States between March and December 2020.

Of these patients, nearly 6,000, or 24%, tested positive for COVID-19, the researchers said.

"The combination of COVID-19 and cardiac arrest is lethal," Girotra said.

"In patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the risk of cardiac arrest is substantial, especially those who need a mechanical ventilator or ICU care," he said.

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