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Could Pressure on Hospitals Due to COVID-19 Increase Cardiovascular Deaths?

CORONAVIRUS disease (COVID-19) has posed a severe health threat over the last year, with millions of associated deaths recorded. However, a recent study in the USA has highlighted that the increased mortality rate seen during the pandemic cannot be explained by the infectious disease alone, and instead may be the result of the impact that it has had on healthcare systems.

In the observational study, researchers from the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Center for Outcomes Research in Cardiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Boston, Massachusetts, USA, compared the rate of cardiovascular-related deaths that occurred after the onset of the pandemic (mid-March to June 2020) with the 11 weeks immediately preceding the pandemic. This was then compared with the same time periods of the previous year.

In the time period after the onset of the pandemic, the researchers identified a significant rise in cardiac deaths compared with the previous year: an 11% increase in deaths due to ischaemic heart diseases and 17% increase in deaths due to hypertensive diseases. Interestingly, there was a correlation with the rise in cardiac deaths at that time and the areas in the USA most affected by the pandemic. Senior Author Robert Yeh commented on the significance of the findings: “These data are particularly relevant today, as we find ourselves in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases that looks to be exceeding what we experienced last spring.”

The authors suggested that the increased strain the pandemic exerted on the healthcare system may have led to delays in care for hospitalised patients who did not have COVID-19. Delays in emergency service response and the postponement of elective surgeries may also have contributed to the increase in cardiac deaths observed. “Overall, our data highlight the urgent need to improve public health messaging and rapidly expand healthcare system resources to ensure that patients with emergent conditions seek and receive medical care, particularly in regions currently experiencing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases,” concluded corresponding author Rishi Wadhera.