UCSF researchers recently published a new manuscript using data collected from the COVID-19 Citizen Science Study from May 2020 to December 2020. This manuscript, published in BMJ Open Heart, investigated the potential link between COVID-19 infection and cardiac arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. Previous reports have demonstrated a link between COVID-19 infections and cardiac arrhythmias in patients hospitalized with COVID-19; however, indirect factors associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as hypoxia and myocardial ischemia, make it difficult to assess whether COVID-19 infection is directly linked to cardiac arrhythmias.
To mitigate the indirect factors associated with severe COVID-19 infections, this study recruited 51 outpatient (non-hospitalized) individuals (mean age of 42, 65% women) who recently tested positive for COVID-19. Importantly, none of these participants had a cardiac arrhythmia diagnosis prior to enrolling in this study. These patients received a long-term continuous heart monitor (Zio XT monitor), which measures electrical activity of the heart to detect heart rhythms, and were instructed to wear the monitor for 14 days (median start day was 75 days after a positive COVID-19 test).
At the time of study enrolment, 45% of participants continued to experience COVID-19 related symptoms and 33% reported experiencing palpitations since testing positive.
While 92% of study participants were reported to experience some type of heart palpitation during their monitoring period, the study did not find any evidence of malignant or sustained arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter, in any of the 51 study participants. These data suggest that COVID-19 does not increase the risk of severe arrhythmias in people after recovering from acute COVID-19 illness.
To read more about this study and its importance, please click the link below to access the full manuscript.