Pneumonia Could Make Your Heart Skip a Beat

Cardiac arrhythmias may develop after pneumonia hospital stay

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Being hospitalized for pneumonia can put patients on a fast track to heart disease. If that weren't bad enough, these patients may also be at risk of developing irregular heart beats.

Having an irregular heart beat can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. If it is detected early, it can be treated with medication and by adoption of a healthy lifestyle.

A recent study found that patients hospitalized for pneumonia had an increased risk of developing irregular heart beats. This is an important finding because it recommends monitoring these patients and treating their heart problems quickly.

"Drink less alcohol for a healthy heart."

Natalia Soto-Gomez, MD, of University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and colleagues led the study to examine the cardiac problems that happened after patients were hospitalized for pneumonia.

The study used information from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) database. Researchers looked at patients that had been hospitalized with pneumonia during 2002 to 2007. Patients that were not previously diagnosed with heart problems were chosen for the study. All of the patients were male and over the age of 65.

A total of 32,689 patients were hospitalized for pneumonia during the study time period. Of those patients, 12 percent were diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia within 90 days of hospital admission. The cardiac arrhythmia diagnosis included problems with having an irregular heart beat.

The researchers also found that patients were at an increased risk of a cardiac arrhythmia if they were older, had a history of congestive heart failure or needed a breathing device. If patients received a beta blocker medication during their hospital stay, they reduced their risks.

The authors commented that additional research is needed to determine if the use of cardioprotective medications would improve outcomes for patients hospitalized with pneumonia. 

Study authors noted some limitations with their study. The VA database is a nearly all male population. The study included only pneumonia patients that were over age 65, which makes the results not easily generalizable. The authors also did not have information on the severity or length of the patients heart problems.

This study titled, "Pneumonia: an arrhythmogenic disease," was published online in the American Journal of Medicine. It was supported by the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio and Dallas. Dr. Natalia Soto-Gomez and colleagues disclosed no conflict of interest.

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Review Date: 
January 12, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013