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Cardiac Arrhythmias in Patients with COVID-19: A Systematic review and Meta-analysis (lay summary)

This is a lay summary of the article published under the DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.09.20209379

Published onJul 03, 2023
Cardiac Arrhythmias in Patients with COVID-19: A Systematic review and Meta-analysis (lay summary)

Many Covid-19 patients had irregular heartbeats

Researchers say about 1 in 5 Covid-19 patients experience cardiac arrhythmia, also known as irregular heartbeats. Since it is so common, they recommend monitoring patient heart rhythms using a machine called an electrocardiogram, so that doctors can identify and treat any arrhythmias as early as possible.

Although Covid-19 affects the lungs and respiratory system for the most part, some research showed that it could also affect the heart. Researchers wanted to review patient data to see how frequent heart rhythm problems really were in Covid-19 patients in 2020, near the start of the global pandemic. 

They conducted a meta-analysis, which is when researchers analyse many different studies on a particular topic to try and draw general conclusions from all of the studies combined. They searched for peer-reviewed studies by other researchers on common databases, and extracted any relevant bits of information about irregular heartbeats in Covid-19 patients. 

In the end, they included 9 studies with information about 1445 patients.

They found that cardiac arrhythmias were observed in 19.7% of patients with Covid-19.

They caution however that the small number of studies they used might undermine their conclusion. Some of the studies also didn’t specify the exact type of heart problem, and each study’s own limitations may confound the limitations of their meta-analysis.

They suggest looking in the future at why so many patients with Covid-19 had irregular heart rhythms.

The authors of this paper were from Egypt, however the patients in this study were from China and the USA. 


Background: Cardiac arrhythmia cannot be overlooked in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as it carries a great influence on the outcomes. Hence, this study aimed to build concrete evidence regarding the incidence of cardiac arrhythmia in patients with COVID-19.

Methods: We performed a systematic search for trusted databases/search engines including PubMed, Scopus, Cochrane library and web of science. After screening, the relevant data were extracted and the incidences from the different included studies were pooled for meta-analysis.

Results: Nine studies were finally included in our study consisting of 1445 patients. The results of meta-analysis showed that the incidence of arrhythmia in patients with COVID-19 was 19.7% with 95% confidence interval (CI) ranging from 11.7 to 27.6%. There was also a significant heterogeneity (I2□=□94.67%).

Conclusion: Cardiac arrhythmias were highly frequent in patients with COVID-19 and observed in 19.7% of them. Appropriate monitoring by electrocardiogram with accurate and early identification of arrhythmias is important for better management and outcomes.


This summary is a free resource intended to make African research and research that affects Africa, more accessible to non-expert global audiences. It was compiled by ScienceLink's team of professional African science communicators as part of the Masakhane MT: Decolonise Science project. ScienceLink has taken every precaution possible during the writing, editing, and fact-checking process to ensure that this summary is easy to read and understand, while accurately reporting on the facts presented in the original research paper. Note, however, that this summary has not been fact-checked or approved by the authors of the original research paper, so this summary should be used as a secondary resource. Therefore, before using, citing or republishing this summary, please verify the information presented with the original authors of the research paper, or email [email protected] for more information.

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