1220 GMT January 26, 2021
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, eurekalert.org reported.
About 1% (40,000) of babies born each year in the United States have one or more heart defects.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, many feared that congenital heart disease would be as big as risk factor for severe COVID-19 as adult-onset cardiovascular disease," said Matthew Lewis, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and coleader of the study. "We were reassured by the low number of congenital heart patients who required hospitalization for COVID-19 and the relatively good outcomes of these patients."
Few congenital heart patients had COVID-19
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. (During the study period, an estimated 20% of people in the New York metropolitan area are thought to have been infected with the coronavirus.)
More than 80% (43) of these patients had mild symptoms. Of the nine patients who developed moderate to severe symptoms, three died. (Another study performed at Columbia University Irving Medical Center during the same period found that roughly 22% of hospitalized patients from the general population became critically ill and about one-third of those patients died.)
In the new study, the researchers found that patients with a genetic syndrome and adults with 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.
Though the study sample was small, the researchers conclude that congenital heart disease alone may not be enough to increase the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.