Throughout the course of the pandemic, evidence has shown that individuals with heart disease have a higher risk of life-threatening illness and complications from COVID-19. But the impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on individuals with congenital heart defects, who are generally younger than those with adult-onset heart disease, was unknown. A study suggests adults and children with heart defects have a lower risk of developing severe or moderate symptoms of coronavirus. Only 53 congenital heart patients (43 adults and 10 children)–less than 0.8% of patients at Columbia’s congenital heart center–presented to their physician with symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection from March through June.
In the new study, the researchers found that patients with a genetic syndrome and adults with the advanced disease from their congenital heart defect were more likely to develop moderate to severe symptoms, though an individual’s type of congenital heart defect did not impact symptoms severity. It’s unlikely that people with congenital heart disease have an intrinsically lower risk of becoming severely ill from the new coronavirus, and the researchers hypothesize that the patients in this study may have adhered more strictly to social distancing guidelines compared with the general population, given the publicity about increased COVID-19 risk in patients with heart disease.
The researchers caution that individuals with congenital heart disease should continue to practice strict social distancing and follow all CDC guidelines as these measures are likely contributing to the study findings. They also note that the younger average age (34 years) of these patients and lower incidence of acquired cardiac risk factors compared with other individuals who had severe COVID-19 may explain why fewer congenital heart patients than expected had severe symptoms.
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