Conference Coverage

Valvular disease and COVID-19 are a deadly mix; don’t delay intervention



Danny Dvir, MD, has a message for physicians who have patients with severe valvular heart disease who are deferring valve replacement or repair until after the COVID-19 pandemic: Urge them not to wait.

Dr. Danny Dvir

Dr. Danny Dvir

Data from the Multicenter International Valve Disease Registry vividly demonstrate that clinical outcomes are poor in patients with uncorrected valve disease who become hospitalized with COVID-19. Indeed, the mortality rate within 30 days after hospital admission in 136 such patients enrolled in the registry from centers in Europe, North America, and Israel was 42%, Dr. Dvir reported at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Research Therapeutics virtual annual meeting.

“That’s dramatically higher than for an age-matched population infected with COVID-19 without valvular heart disease, which is 10%-15%,” he noted at the meeting sponsored by the Cardiovascular Research Foundation.

The bright spot was that, in the small subgroup of 15 registry participants who underwent transcatheter or, much less frequently, surgical treatment of their failing valve while COVID-19 infected, 30-day mortality was far lower. In fact, it was comparable with the background rate in hospitalized COVID-19 patients without valve disease, according to Dr. Dvir, an interventional cardiologist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

He personally did several of the transcatheter aortic valve replacements.

“It’s doable. I truly believe that when you get a severe aortic stenosis patient who’s infected with the coronavirus, they get very unstable, but we can treat them. We can treat them even during the infection,” Dr. Dvir said.

The majority of patients in the registry had severe aortic stenosis. In the 42 such patients aged 80 years or more who didn’t undergo transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) or surgical valve replacement, 30-day mortality was 60%. In contrast, only one of the six patients in this advanced-age category who underwent valve replacement while infected died. Similarly, 30-day mortality was 24% among those younger than age 80 who valve remained untreated, but it dropped to 11% in those who received a prosthetic valve.

“We try our best to protect our patients through social distancing, but we have a treatment that can potentially reduce their mortality risk if they get infected later on. So I say to my patients: ‘Don’t wait at home. Do not wait! If you get infected when you have severe aortic stenosis, the clinical outcome is bad.’ But it seems reasonable that if they get infected when they’ve already been treated for their aortic stenosis or mitral regurgitation, they will do better.”

Dr. Dvir noted that, although the case numbers in the registry series were small and subject to potential bias, the data suggest this treatment approach may be lifesaving.

Timothy D. Henry, MD, medical director of The Carl and Edyth Lindner Center for Research and Education at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati

Dr. Timothy D. Henry

Session comoderator Timothy D. Henry, MD, commented that this registry study contains a great take-home point: “This is really consistent with what see in a lot of the other areas of COVID, that what we know to be best clinical care, we should do it, with or without the COVID.”

He asked Dr. Dvir about any special measures he takes while doing TAVR in this extreme setting. In the United States, for example, interventionalists are increasingly using transesophageal echocardiography to guide their procedures using conscious sedation, without intubation, noted Dr. Henry, medical director of the Carl and Edyth Lindner Center for Research at the Christ Hospital, Cincinnati.

“We try to minimize the procedure time; that’s one of the important things,” Dr. Dvir replied. “And you need to be protected during the procedure in a very cautious and meticulous way. You need many fans in the room because you sweat a lot.”

Discussant Renu Virmani, MD, president of the CVPath Institute in Gaithersburg, Md., commented: “The main thing I get from this presentation is the need for patients to be educated that if you’ve got valve disease, you’re better off getting it treated before you’ve got COVID. Obviously, try to prevent getting COVID – that’s the best thing you can do – but you can’t always control that.”

Discussant Mamas Mamas, MD, professor of cardiology at Keele University, Staffordshire, England, said deferred treatment of severe valvular heart disease during the pandemic has created a looming public health crisis in the United Kingdom.

“We’ve analyzed the U.K. management of aortic stenosis, and what we’ve found is that during the COVID pandemic there have been 2,500 fewer cases of aortic stenosis that have been treated. We’ve got 2,500 patients on the waiting list, and we’ve got to work out how we’re going to treat them. We estimate with simulations that about 300 of them are going to die before we can get them treated for their aortic stenosis,” according to Dr. Mamas.

Dr. Henry commented that deferral of valve procedures is “really challenging” for a couple of reasons: Not only are patients scared to come into the hospital because they fear getting COVID, but they don’t want to be hospitalized during the pandemic because their family can’t visit them there.

“These patients are mostly over 80 years old. No one wants to come in the hospital when the family won’t be around, especially when you’re 90 years old,” the interventional cardiologist said.

Dr. Dvir reported serving as a consultant to Medtronic, Edwards Lifesciences, Abbott, and Jena.

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