Infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is associated with impaired function of the right side of the heart, according to a new study on intensive care patients in Scotland.
The researchers from NHS Golden Jubilee and the University of Glasgow in Scotland noted that these findings could play a vital role in not only saving the lives of COVID-19 patients, but for the care of potentially fatal heart and lung issues generally.
The first of its kind, the COVID-RV study aimed to help improve future care and outcomes for those most at risk from COVID-19, by gaining a better understanding of the impact the virus has on the sickest patients who require invasive ventilation.
The study was carried out in 10 ICUs across Sotland, examining 121 critically ill patients who were receiving treatment on ventilators due to the impact of coronavirus on their system.
The findings revealed that approximately 1 in 3 of the patients in the study showed evidence of abnormalities in the right side of the heart -- the area that pumps blood to the lungs.
"A combination of factors create the perfect storm for COVID-19 to damage the right side of your heart, which ultimately can cause death," said lead author of the study, Philip McCall, Consultant in Cardiothoracic Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at NHS Golden Jubilee.
"If you are pumping blood to the lungs and the lungs become very sick, you have an additional problem because the lungs are not willing to receive blood," McCall said in a statement.
The researchers noted the results of this study are so important as this is a very difficult condition to spot.
Chief Investigator of the study Ben Shelley, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at NHS Golden Jubilee, said the study has revealed that there is no doubt COVID-19 affects the heart and has a major impact on outcomes for the patient.
"However, now that we know this actually happens, and have a better understanding of how it affects people, we can plan for the future and put in place new care plans and treatments to help combat this, Shelley said.
"For example, ultrasound scans can be used differently to focus in on early warning signs and areas we now know to be at risk, the scientist said.
The finding is important, not only in combating any future waves of COVID-19, but in planning for future pandemics to allow people to be treated more effectively, the researchers said.
Nearly half of ventilated patients in the study (47 per cent) died because of COVID-19, a figure that is comparable to national and international death rates, they said.
Experts leading the COVID-RV study said that the overall condition of a person's heart can have a significant impact on how seriously you will be affected by the potentially deadly virus.