In the era of COVID-19, in-hospital transmission is a concern across all medical specialties, including cardiac electrophysiology. Patients with heart rhythm related disorders needing procedures, such as those with atrial fibrillation needing ablation, or those needing a pacemaker or defibrillator, who avoid seeking care may jeopardize their long-term health. Emerging information from cardiac electrophysiologists at Yale New Haven Hospital’s (YNHH) Heart and Vascular Center shows that hospital safety protocols were effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
This information was published in the journal Heart Rhythm O2. These insights help to address the challenges of COVID-19 and to protect patients at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The authors contacted over 100 patients who underwent procedures in the Cardiac Electrophysiology (EP) Laboratory between mid-March and mid-May. None of the patients developed coronavirus infection. This is the first known study to report success at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 from an EP laboratory.
"We learned early in the pandemic the risks to patients of delaying routine medical care. It's encouraging that we were able to create an environment where patients can feel comfortable proceeding with routine care without a significant risk of exposure to COVID-19," said lead author Virginia Workman, MD.
Preventive Measures at Yale New Haven Hospital
Yale New Haven Hospital developed a system to determine which patients were in need of urgent cardiac procedures and which could be rescheduled to reduce possible exposure. In addition to delaying nonurgent cardiac procedures, YNHH leadership established mandatory protocols to limit contact between healthcare providers and patients. The use of masks, personal protective equipment, and pre-procedure testing were also recommended by the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) COVID-19 task force and other professional cardiovascular societies.
Infection-prevention strategies can minimize the spread of COVID-19 for patients and staff. “With proper use of preventive measures as recommended by published guidelines, the risk of the spread of COVID-19 to patients in the electrophysiology lab is low,” senior author Rachel Lampert, MD, FACC, FHRS, noted in the study.
“This study allowed us to clearly show that by developing and following infection control protocols with our dedicated team, we can bring patients to Yale New Haven Hospital for important heart procedures with an extremely low risk of COVID-19 infection,” said study co-author and Director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology Laboratories, James V. Freeman, MD, MPH, MS.
About the Cardiac Electrophysiology Program
The Yale Cardiac Electrophysiology Program provides highly specialized care patients with heart rhythm disorders such as atrial fibrillation, slow heart rhythms, and those at risk for sudden cardiac death. Yale New Haven Hospital offers Connecticut’s largest and most comprehensive program for arrhythmia treatment and offers cutting edge treatments including ablation, a non-surgical procedure that eliminates an abnormal heartbeat, and placement of implanted cardiac device like pacemakers and defibrillators. Visit Yale Medicine to learn more.