Scots heart specialists say the function of the right hand side of the heart which pumps blood to the lungs may be key to surviving Covid-19.

Cardiologists at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank with specialist heart intensive care treatment experience are investigating how many patients develop problems with the right ventricle and how this impacts on the severity of the illness.

Patients across 12 ICUs in Scotland who are ventilated are undergoing non-invasive ultrasound scans of the heart to explore and monitor how the condition develops and the impact on the heart.
The COVID-RV study, is one of the first to examine heart function in the sickest patients who need ventilators in ICU, which affects around 5 per cent of all cases.

Researchers are also hoping to better understand how Covid affects patients with existing heart conditions. 

Dr Ben Shelley, NHS Golden Jubilee Intensive Care Consultant and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at University of Glasgow, who is leading the national study, said: “We know that in other conditions which cause severe breathing difficulties, pressure can be put on this area of the heart (the right ventricle) which pumps blood to the lungs.

"The aim of this study is to determine how many patients with COVID-19 who need to be ventilated develop problems with their right heart.
“In some cases, this can cause the right heart to fail, creating difficulties pumping blood forward and result in a build-up of back pressure.

"Unfortunately, individuals who develop these symptoms are less likely to survive their intensive care stay, which is why this study is so important.
“We aim to determine whether and how patients with COVID-19 requiring ventilation develop problems with their right heart, and also how this may adversely affect individuals with existing heart conditions.

"By getting a better understanding of the condition, we can tailor treatment more effectively and potentially save lives.”
The project is now taking place across 12 ICUs in Scotland, with ventilated patients undergoing non-invasive ultrasound scans of the heart (echocardiography) to explore and monitor how the condition develops and the impact this can have on their heart.

The study will also collect blood samples to look for damage to the heart during this time.
Dr Shelley added: “By examining clinical data, we will also look to see if any other conditions or treatments increase the risk of right heart problems.

"By identifying these issues, we are learning more about the virus, and will be better able to guide future studies around care and treatments aimed at protecting the right heart. By doing so, we hope to be able to significantly improve outcomes for this patient group.”
The team is hoping to study up to 150 patients by the end of March 2021, with around 80 patients being reported on so far.
After the study is completed an educational session will be held to disseminate the learning to frontline clinicians dealing with Covid patients, and to plan a future trial to help protect patients.
Dr Catherine Sinclair, Head of Research and Development at the NHS Golden Jubilee Research Institute and Innovation Centre, said: “While many clinicians are reporting seeing the effects of COVID on the right heart, this is a focused study to provide evidence to those findings and better understand the mechanisms of what is going on."