Heart attacks during the Covid-19 pandemic were more likely to result in heart failure compared with heart attacks a year earlier, according to a study.
The study led by Lithuanian University of Health Sciences compared treatment delays, post-treatment ejection fraction, and decompensated heart failure hospitalisation rate in heart attack patients before versus during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Urgent treatment for heart attacks is essential to restore the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. A longer duration of oxygen deprivation is associated with a greater area of damaged muscle and reduced pump function (called ejection fraction), which is a type of heart failure.
"Heart attack patients waited an average of 14 hours to get help during the pandemic, with some delaying for nearly two days. That compares to a delay of six hours in the previous year," said Ali Aldujeli of the Hospital of Lithuanian University of Health Sciences in Kaunas, Lithuania.A
"This gap may have been one contributor to the higher incidence of subsequent heart failure,"Aldujeli added.
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The study included patients with acute myocardial infarction who received a negative test result for Covid-19 infection between 11 March and 20 April 2020 and underwent invasive treatment.
The data were compared to patients admitted with the same diagnosis during the same period in 2019. Patients were followed up for six months following hospital discharge.
A total of 269 heart attack patients were evaluated in the study. There was a 34.0 per cent decline in heart attack admissions during the early phase of the pandemic compared to the same period in 2019.
Patients waited significantly longer before presenting to hospital during the pandemic compared to 2019 (a median of 858 versus 386 minutes, respectively).
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"Declines in admissions and delays in seeking treatment may be partly attributed to the extensive media coverage which amplified patients' fear of contracting Covid-19 and precluded them from seeking timely medical care,"Aldujeli said.
"Our findings suggest that all heart attacks during a pandemic should be treated urgently with staff using PPE. More balanced media coverage is also needed so that patients do not wait to seek help in medical emergencies," Aldujeli said.
The researchers presented their findings at the 2021 Heart Failure 2021, an online scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology.