Individuals Previously Infected with COVID-19 Face Increased Risk of Heart Rhythm Disruption


Older individuals and individuals that experienced severe COVID-19 are at high risk of increased cardiac disturbances.

New study findings announced that individuals who were infected with COVID-19 could experience an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation, a form of heart rhythm disturbances, according to research conducted by Umeå University, Sweden.1

Anonymous crowd of people walking street wearing masks during covid 19 coronavirus pandemic- Image credit: Blvdone |

Image credit: Blvdone |

"The results underline the importance of both being vaccinated against COVID-19 and that the health care system identifies people at increased risk of this type of complications, so that the correct diagnosis is made, and appropriate treatment is started in time," said Ioannis Katsoularis, first author of the study and cardiologist at University Hospital of Northern Sweden in Umeå, in a press release.1

The study used national register data on all individuals that resided in Sweden who were infected with COVID-19 from February 1, 2020, to May 25, 2021.2

The study authors noted that the results from this data identified that COVID-19 infected individuals could suffer with 2 forms of heart rhythm disturbances — tachycardias and bradyarrhythmias.1 Tachycardia occurs is when the heart rate is high and bradyarrhythmia occurs is when the heart rate is slow. In some cases this results in the need for a pacemaker, according to the press release.1

Prior to the results, a matched cohort study was designed to determine the incidence rate ratio and risk ratio. The study authors noted that 1,057,174 COVID-19 exposed individuals and 4,074,844 unexposed individuals were included.2

The study authors noted that the average age of the infected individuals was 39 years old, 49% male, 51% female, 95% did not need to be hospitalized due to illness, and 1.8% died due to infection during the study.2

Two months prior to infection, risk of atrial fibrillation and flutter were reported to have increased.1

Other results found that a subset of tachycardias, known as paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardias displayed an increase 6 months after infection and was 5 times greater in the first month prior to infection.1

However, the risk among bradyarrhythmias increased 2 weeks after infection and was 3 times greater in individuals that were not infected.1

“We found that the risks were higher in older individuals, individuals with severe COVID-19 and during the first wave of the pandemic. We could also see that unvaccinated people were at higher risk than vaccinated people. Overall, the severity of the infection was the strongest risk factor," said Anne-Marie Fors Connolly, who leads the research group at Umeå University that is behind the study, in a press release.1

The findings suggest that older individuals and individuals that experienced severe COVID-19 are at high risk of increased cardiac disturbances.2


  1. Increased risk of heart rhythm disruption after COVID-19. EurekAlert!. News release. December 13, 2023. Accessed December 13, 2023.
  2. Risk of arrhythmias following COVID-19: nationwide self-controlled case series and matched cohort study. Oxford Academic. News release. November 21, 2023. Accessed December 13, 2023.
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