Australia’s world-first COVID-19 heart study


Why are people with heart disease so severely affected by COVID-19?

Australia’s largest private healthcare provider has backed a world-first study seeking to better understand the effects of the coronavirus, and improve outcomes for infected patients who also have cardiovascular issues.

COVID-AUS, the first national registry of its type globally, is funded and supported by Ramsay Health Care’s Hospital Research Foundation.

Principal investigator Professor Ravinay Bhindi, a cardiologist at Ramsay-owned North Shore Private Hospital in Sydney, said his team hoped to answer fundamental questions to help clinicians triage and treat patients with COVID-19.

“There is an urgency to increase our knowledge of COVID-19 now so we can avoid the infection and death rates we have seen in Italy, Spain and the United States,” Prof Bhindi said.

“Early data from China and Europe suggests patients who had cardiac disease did quite badly when exposed to coronavirus, so we need to better understand the effects of pre-existing cardiovascular disease on outcomes, plus how clinicians and health services can be better prepared to manage these patients,” he added.

Prof Bhindi said cardiovascular disease affects one in six Australians, and the number of those patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 is higher than any other co-morbidity condition, including respiratory disease.

“If you have cardiac disease, getting COVID-19 is more than twice as deadly as having a heart attack, and we are talking about millions of people here,” he said.

“While the measures employed by public health and the general public to lower the numbers of COVID-19 have been phenomenal, as the economy opens up the numbers could rise again, so we need to be prepared.”

North Shore Private Hospital cardiologist Professor Ravinay Bhindi.

Prof Bhindi’s team features cardiologists and researchers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

More than 20 hospitals are expected to take part in the study, which aims to involve 865 consecutive patients with COVID-19.

Research will conclude in early September 2020, and the findings are due three months later. 

Ramsay Hospital Research Foundation has contributed nearly $200,000 to fund the study, its CEO Nicola Ware said.

“Nobody knows or has documented what the cardiology complications associated with COVID-19 are, so being able to record all those patients will give researchers lots of information.

“AUS-COVID will be one of the biggest cardiology registries in the world,” she said.

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