People hospitalized with COVID-19 were up to twice as likely to die or become seriously ill if they also had congenital heart defects, new research shows.
People born with heart defects also had a higher risk of needing a ventilator or being treated in the intensive care unit than people without heart defects, according to the study published Monday in the journal Circulation. of the American Heart Association.
Having another underlying health condition – such as heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, Down syndrome, diabetes or obesity – in addition to a heart defect put people at risk the most. higher risk of contracting the most serious illness of COVID-19. Men and people 50 or older were also among those most at risk.
The study is one of the first to shed light on the additional risk for people with heart defects who are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Data comparing COVID-19 outcomes in people with and without congenital heart defects have been limited,” lead author Karrie Downing said in a press release. She is an epidemiologist at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Congenital heart defects occur when the heart or nearby blood vessels do not develop properly before birth. There are more than a dozen different types, but having some kind of heart defect is the most common type of birth defect in the world, according to AHA statistics.
The researchers analyzed the medical records of 235,638 people with and without congenital heart defects who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States from March 2020 to January 2021. The patients were between 1 and 64 years old.
Compared to patients without them, those with heart defects had higher rates of ICU admission, 54% versus 43%; higher fan usage, 24% vs. 15%; and higher mortality rates, 11% versus 7%. The increased risks are true regardless of age or other health conditions.
But not all COVID-19 patients with heart defects have had poor outcomes, Downing said, underscoring the need for more research to identify why.
And Downing said the findings suggest medical professionals should pay particular attention to preventive care for people born with heart defects.
“People with heart defects should be encouraged to receive COVID-19 vaccines and boosters and continue to practice additional preventive measures for COVID-19, such as mask-wearing and physical distancing,” he said. she stated. “People with heart defects should also consult with their healthcare teams about additional steps to manage personal risks from COVID-19, given the significantly increased risk of serious infection and serious complications.”
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