How common are cardiac complications in Covid-19?

Although we often think of Covid-19 as a respiratory disease, cardiovascular complications are not uncommon.

Myocardial injury based on elevated cardiac troponin levels have been reported in ~20% of patients with Covid-19.1,2 Among deceased patients with Covid-19 without underlying cardiovascular disease, ~12.0% have been reported to have “substantial heart damage” based on elevated levels of troponins or cardiac arrest.1  

Arrythmias have also been reported in a significant number of patients (~20.0% in those on invasive mechanical ventilation). 3,4

Reports of Covid-19-associated acute onset heart failure, myocardial infarction, myocarditis and pericarditis have also appeared in the literature. 4-6

Proposed mechanisms of acute myocardial injury include direct binding of the virus to ACE2 receptors which are present not only in the lungs but also cardiac endothelial and smooth muscle cells of myocardial vessels as well as in cardiac myocytes. 1,7,8 Myocardial injury may also be a consequence of Covid-19-related cytokine storm or respiratory insufficiency.1

Interestingly, patient with heart failure have increased expression of ACE2 which may make them particularly vulnerable to myocardial injury and failure after Covid-19 infection. 8

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that a type of perivascular mural cell called “pericyte” makes up a significant part of the myocardium and—in contrast to relatively low expression of ACE2 in cardiac myocytes— expresses ACE2 at high levels, potentially serving as an important target for Covid-19 virus? 8

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 References

  1. Zheng YY, Ma YT, Zhang JY, et al. Covid-19 and the cardiovascular system. Nature Rev 2020, May. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41569-020-0360-5
  2. Yang xz, Yu Y, Xu J, et al. Clinical course and outcomes of critically ill patients with SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia in Wuhan, China: a single-centered, retrospective, observational study. Lancet Respir Med 2020, Feb 24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7102538/
  3. Goyal P, Choi JJ, Pinheiro LC, et al. Clinical characteristics of Covid-19 in New York City 2010. N Engl J Med 2020. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2010419 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2010419
  4. Covid-19 clinical guidance for the cardiovascular care team. American College of cardiology 2020. https://www.acc.org/~/media/665AFA1E710B4B3293138D14BE8D1213.pdf
  5. Hu H, Ma F, Wei X, et al. Coronavirus fulminant myocarditis treated with glucocorticoid and human immunoglobulin. Eur Heart J 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32176300/
  6. Hua A, O’Gallaher KO, Sado D. Life-threatening cardiac tamponade complicating myo-pericarditis in Covid-19. Eur Heart J 2020. https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/doi/10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa253/5813280
  7. Gallager PE, Ferrario CM, Tallant EA. Regulation of ACE2 in cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts. Am J Physiol heart Circ Physiol 2008;295:H2373-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2614534/
  8. Chen L, Li X, Chen M, et al. The ACE2 expression in human heart indicates new potential mechanism of heart injury among patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. Cardiovasc Res 2020, March 13. https://academic.oup.com/cardiovascres/article/doi/10.1093/cvr/cvaa078/5813131

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

How common are cardiac complications in Covid-19?

Is my patient with gout at higher risk of cancer?

Although the association of gout with cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus or obesity is well known, increasingly number of epidemiologic studies support the association of gout with higher risk of malignancy. 1,2

A 2015 meta-analysis of 3 studies involving over 50,000 persons concluded that gout was an independent risk factor for cancer, particularly urological, gastrointestinal and lung cancers. 1

A population-based study of comorbidities in over 2 million persons in Sweden found that in addition to an increased risk of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, chronic heart failure, chronic kidney disease and alcohol abuse, gout was associated with increased risk of malignancy: odds ratio 1.3 (1.2-1.5) in men and 1.1 (1.1-1.2) in women. 2

Although serum uric acid has been considered to have anti-oxidant properties, a prospective study of over 28,000 women followed over a median of 15.2 years did not find high serum acid levels to be protective of cancer.3 In fact, uric acid levels > 5.4 mg/dL at the time of subject enrollment was independently associated with increased risk of total cancer mortality and deaths from a variety of malignant neoplasms, including those of breast, female genital organs, and nervous systems. 3 In a similar prospective study involving men, high uric acid levels (>6.7 mg/dL) were associated with increased risk of mortality from gastrointestinal, respiratory and intrathoracic organ malignancies. 4

Whether the observed association between gout and higher risk of malignancy is causal or due to the company that gout often keeps (eg, lifestyle) is unclear.

Fun fact: Did you know that among mammals, only humans, great apes and certain breeds of dogs (eg, Dalmation) produce elevated levels of uric acid in the urine and blood? 5

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References

  1. Wang W, Xu D, Wang B, et al. Increased risk of cancer in relation to gout: a review of three prospective cohort studies with 50,358 subjects. Mediators of Inflammation 2015, Article ID 680853, 6 pages. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26504360
  2. Wandell P. Gout and its comorbidities in the total population of Stockholm. Preventive Medicine 2015; 81:387-91. ISSN 0091-7435. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26500085
  3. Strasak AM, Rapp K, Hilbe W, et al. The role of serum uric acid as an antioxidant protecting against cancer: prospective study in more than 28000 older Austrian women. Ann Onc 2007;18:1893-97. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17785768
  4. Strasak Am, Hilbe RK, Oberaingner W, et al. Serum uric acid and risk of cancer mortality in a large prospective male cohort. Cancer Causes Control 2007;18:1021-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17665312
  5. Bannasch D, Safra N, Young A, et al. Mutations in the SLC2A9 gene cause hyperuriosuria and hyperuricemia in the dog. PLOS Genet 2008;4:e1000246. https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1000246&type=printable
Is my patient with gout at higher risk of cancer?

What is the utility of pulmonary auscultation for crackles (rales) in diagnosing congestive heart failure (CHF) or pneumonia?

The evidence for the accuracy of crackles in CHF is not as robust as often assumed, with wide variations in its sensitivity (13%-70%), specificity (35%-100%), positive predictive value (19%-100%), and negative predictive value (17%-85%) (1).

In a study  of patients at high risk for CHF but without valvular heart disease, symptoms of CHF, or comorbid pulmonary disease,  the prevalence of baseline crackles in one or both lungs increased with age: 45-64 y , 11%; 65-79 y, 34%; and 80-95 y, 70%.  At best, fair or poor positive and negative likelihood ratios (LRs) have been reported for crackles in CHF (3.4, and 0.8, respectively) (2). 

The accuracy of crackles in diagnosing pneumonia in patients with cough and fever is not much better: sensitivity 19-67%, specificity 36-94%, and poor positive and negative LRs (1.8 and 0.8, respectively) (2).

So don’t overestimate the accuracy of crackles in CHF or pneumonia, especially if your suspicion for these conditions is high!

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References

  1. Kataoka H, Matsuno O. Age-related pulmonary crackles (rales) in asymptomatic cardiovascular patients. Ann Fam Med 2008;6:239-245.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2384982/ 
  2. McGee S. Auscultation of the lungs. In Evidence-based physical diagnosis (3rd ed.). Elsevier Saunders, Philadelphia, 2012.
What is the utility of pulmonary auscultation for crackles (rales) in diagnosing congestive heart failure (CHF) or pneumonia?