Dr Sudhir Naik is a Senior Cardiologist at Apollo Hospitals. He has more than 50 years of experience and numerous feathers in his cap. He sits on the editorial board of India Heart Journal, has won a gold medal for the best scientific paper association of physicians of India, and WHO Fellowship on Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in South East Asia. Sharing some time with You & I, Dr Naik elaborates on COVID-19 and its impact on cardiology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented and extraordinary times over the past few months. Life as we know it has taken a strange turn, and many have undergone untold suffering.
Regarding the medical aspects of this worldwide pandemic, it has been a gruelling experience, not only for patients and their families but also for doctors and other health care workers.
Although the virus primarily affects the respiratory system, it also impacts every organ in the body, including the heart, the gastrointestinal tract, the brain, the kidneys and the blood clotting pathways. Patients may experience only general fatigue or mild fever and cough. The majority of young and healthy people have no symptoms at all, despite having the infection.
As cardiologists, we see that our patients usually have co-morbid conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Because of this, they have an additional risk of poor outcomes when they are exposed to COVID-19. The heart may be involved in some cases with myocarditis and heart failure. In other cases, there may be altered coagulation, leading to blood clots in the arteries. Children may, very, very rarely, have dilatation of heart vessels and aneurysms. There is anxiety, fear and apprehension for the patient, and also for the family, given the unpredictable outcome and financial, social and personal consequences.
Equally concerning are the demands being made on the front-line medical and paramedical workers who are bravely fighting the epidemic with little concern for their own health. This disease has taught us that teamwork alone can succeed with the involvement of several medical specialists and medical teams. Telemedicine has played an important role in protecting vulnerable patients from undesirable hospital visits and possible exposure to the virus. Surprisingly, patients are responding well to this form of consultation.To control this epidemic, every individual needs to contribute. Social distancing, wearing protective masks and maintaining hand sanitation should be taken seriously. Although these sound simple, they are the major recommendations from every international health organisation.
Self-referral, testing where possible, and self-quarantine remain the mainstay of every individual’s personal efforts. As testing has become available, citizens should avoid the fear of stigma and get tested for their own protection as well of their families. Scientific organisations across the globe are working together to provide evolving management guidelines as we all learn together. However, I am quite optimistic that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Together we will be able to overcome this pandemic. - Srivalli