Medical experts say they saw an increase of almost 50 percent in the number of requests for cardiovascular imaging tests in Hong Kong in 2021. A survey of cardiologists and radiologists found that a majority suspected that the increase was related to COVID-19 vaccinations.
The 15th Congress of Asian Society of Cardiovascular Imaging (ASCI 2022), co-organized by the Hong Kong College of Radiologists and Hong Kong College of Cardiology, held a press conference on June 23. The organizers conducted an online survey of 80 cardiologists and 46 radiologists in May this year to determine the clinical observations of three cardiac catheterization tests, including computerized tomography coronary angiogram (CTCA) and cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) in 2021.
The survey found that the majority of doctors agreed that the number of cardiac imaging examinations in 2021 had risen compared to 2020, with an increase of about 11 to 30 percent for CTCA and CMR.
Cardiologists said this phenomenon is related to COVID-19 vaccination as the main cause of CTCA referrals was chest pain related to vaccination, and the main cause of CMR referrals was heart failure related to vaccination.
Forty-three percent of the doctors surveyed said that more than half of the CTCA test results were abnormal, with mild to moderate aortic stenosis being more common.
Eighty-seven percent of cardiologists pointed out that more than half of the patients with moderate to severe coronary artery disease were newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients. The most common CMR abnormalities found were myocardial ischaemia, myocardial infarction, and decreased left ventricular systolic function.
According to cardiologist Dr. Chan Wing Sze, the findings of the survey indicate that heart disease may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination. Some other Asian countries were also affected by COVID-19 but the number of heart screening tests decreased relatively, while the numbers in Hong Kong are still increasing.
Radiologist Dr. Cheung Chi Wai said that artificial intelligence (AI) has been introduced internationally to assist in cardiac imaging examinations to save analysis time. In the UK, AI technology can accurately analyze the results of heart scans and predict the risk of future heart disease or the progression of the patient’s condition, and can complete a 20-minute manual analysis in two seconds. He believes that using AI in clinical diagnosis will significantly help doctors.
The European regulator said that a side effect of the vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna was myocarditis.
Myocarditis and pericarditis will be officially listed in the UK and Europe as side effects associated with the COVID vaccine, a decision already made by U.S. regulators in June 2021.
According to the European Medicines Agency, these side effects are more common in young men. The European Medicines Agency also advises people to look out for symptoms associated with myocarditis after vaccination, including chest pain, shortness of breath, and a strong or fluttering heartbeat. The survey found that most cases occurred within 14 days of receiving the vaccine.