The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways, including heart health for many people who were either infected by COVID-19 or who had a heart attack or other major heart problems at home during the pandemic but decided not to seek treatment for fear of coming to the hospital.
To help these patients and their doctors, heart experts at the University of Miami Health System have established a special program to address health issues related to heart inflammation and scarring due to COVID-19 infections and untreated heart problems.
Our heart experts are leading the way in understanding how COVID-19 impacts heart health and in researching innovative ways to help treat it. We’re here to answer some questions you may have:
The COVID-19 virus can directly infect the heart as well as the lungs. Evidence of inflammation of the heart is present in approximately one-third of patients hospitalized for COVID-19. It is not currently known whether the inflammation will heal on its own, or will leave permanent scarring and inflammation in these patients that could lead to future cardiac problems. It’s also not known if people with less severe cases of COVID-19 infection that did not require hospitalization could also have experienced heart damage.
Our heart experts now offer screening to patients who have had COVID-19 to identify evidence of heart inflammation and scarring that may require medical treatment.
FAQs if you had COVID-19 and want to be screened for heart damage.
- When would the screening evaluation take place?
We would plan to evaluate you after you have recovered from the COVID-19 infection, preferably 6 weeks to 6 months after.
- What does the evaluation include?
If you were hospitalized, we will review your records for clues indicating infection of the heart. We will assess all of your risk factors for heart disease and any potential symptoms. An electrocardiogram will be performed. Depending on this evaluation, we will consider further blood testing, an echocardiogram, and monitoring for heart rhythm problems.
- What can you do for me if you find heart problems?
What we can do medically will depend on what we find. Generally, we may recommend closer monitoring of your heart over the next several years, special medications to prevent the heart issue from getting worse, or more advanced testing – such as a cardiac MRI – to better define the problem.
If you have experienced prolonged periods of chest pain or pressure, jaw pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, light-headedness, or fainting that were not evaluated, our heart experts will initiate appropriate testing and treatment to understand how your heart may have been affected and how to move forward with treatment to prevent future heart attack, heart problems, and death.
There has been a dramatic reduction in the number of people having heart attacks coming to hospital ERs during the COVID-19 pandemic. These “missing” heart attacks most likely occurred at home in people who were reluctant to go to the hospital due to fear of coronavirus infection. Other potentially serious cardiac issues, such as atrial fibrillation and loss of consciousness, known as syncope, have also been seen much less frequently in the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those people who did have a heart attack at home, or who have experienced AFib or loss of consciousness, it is important to be evaluated and to undergo testing and treatments to prevent future heart attacks, stroke, and death.
FAQs if you think you may have experienced a heart attack at home.
- Could I have had a heart attack at home and feel fine now?
YES! Most people with heart attacks survive. Symptoms may last for several hours and then resolve.
- If I had a heart attack and have no symptoms now, what would you do for me?
Heart attacks are caused when fatty plaque in an artery blocks blood flow to the heart muscle. The decreased blood flow can cause the heart muscle can die and replaced with scar tissue. After a heart attack, there are a number of medications that must be started to prevent another attack and death. These include aspirin, statins, beta-blockers, among others. Risk factor control and exercise are also key components of care after a heart attack. In addition, just like there was significant disease in the artery that led to the heart attack, there could be significant disease in the other arteries that supply blood to the heart. This needs assessment. Finally, if the heart attack was large enough, it could have resulted in a significant decline in heart function. This would initiate another set of care pathways.
- If I passed out or had palpitations and feel fine now, do I need to be evaluated?
Passing out is a potential warning sign for serious heart rhythm problems that may lead to cardiac arrest. A thorough evaluation is warranted to prevent more serious episodes. Palpitations have many causes. One of the common causes is atrial fibrillation. A common type of atrial fibrillation appears and disappears on its own. It is important to establish whether this is what you had, because atrial fibrillation is a leading cause of stroke, which is preventable with treatment with blood thinners.
The University of Miami Health System has extensive experience in evaluation and treatment for heart disease. Your initial evaluation will determine what tests and treatments are best for your condition. Early intervention is particularly important for individuals who have risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, or a family history of heart disease. Your initial consultation may be on our virtual clinic platform, and our clinics for in-person consultations are focused on the safety of both our patients and employees. To make an appointment, call 305-2-HEART-U (305-243-2788).
We’re ready to care for you, and your health and safety are of utmost importance to us. To protect the safety of you and our employees, we have implemented many new guidelines that have been scientifically demonstrated to minimize risk. For more information on our commitment to safety, please visit We Are Ready to Care for You.