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Interventional cardiology and coronavirus: frequently asked questions

Information for patients

We know that this is a concerning time for lots of people, especially if you have an existing health problem. Most people with coronavirus (COVID-19) have mild symptoms and make a full recovery. Having a heart and circulatory condition probably doesn't make you any more likely to catch coronavirus than anyone else. But if you have a heart or circulatory condition it may mean that you could get more ill if you get coronavirus (COVID-19), which is why it's really important to protect yourself.

  • As always, we remain completely committed to caring for you and your family. If you are worried about your health or feel that your symptoms are getting worse, please let us know so that we can give you the help and treatment you need.
  • If you have been called about, or have an upcoming appointment, we may ask you to see a different doctor or nurse as members of our team are being deployed to help other departments in the hospital.
  • Where appropriate, we may hold appointments over the phone or via a video service.

Frequently asked questions

  • I am worried I might have coronavirus (COVID-19)

    Please also bear in mind that the majority of patients, including the majority of cardiac patients, will make a full recovery from coronavirus (COVID-19).

    Do not leave your home if you have coronavirus symptoms:

    • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
    • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).

    To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home.

    Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.

  • I was due to be admitted for an angiogram or angioplasty but this has been delayed. Am I at risk because of this?

    Our cardiology teams have reviewed all cases who were due to have a planned procedure. Although the procedures can help guide therapy, and angioplasty can be very helpful in reducing angina, there are only a very few instances where these procedures reduce the risk of heart attacks.

    Far more important are: having a healthy lifestyle (espescially not smoking), controlling blood pressure and diabetes, and medications – in particular statins. 

    Delaying the procedure for the large majority of patients would not put you at increased risk of a heart attack.

    Your consultant will have reviewed your specific case and decided the best course of action for you. If this has not been discussed with to you, or you have concerns, please contact us on gst-tr.cardiology@nhs.net or call on 020 7188 8524 or 020 7188 1073.

  • My cardiologist has arranged for me to attend for an angiogram/angioplasty. Am I at increased risk of contacting the coronavirus?

    In some cases, because of the nature of your symptoms, or recent test results, your cardiologist will have asked for you to be admitted for a coronary angiogram or angioplasty procedure despite the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.  This decision will have been made on an individual patient basis. 

    Whilst there is a risk of contracting the virus with all travel, on any occasion that you or your family leave your home, we have tried to minimise the risks for your admission. Coronary angiogram and angioplasty procedures are undertaken in a part of the hospital that is separate from the emergency department.

    We aim to undertake all procedures as day cases. You will not be admitted to a ward but directly to the catheter labs. Here you will be checked in, have the procedure, and then recover within the catheter lab unit before being allowed home later that day.

    Your consultant will have reviewed your specific case and decided the best course of action for you. If this has not been discussed with you, or you have concerns, please contact us on gst-tr.cardiology@nhs.net or on 020 7188 8524 or 020 7188 1073.

  • Am I at increased risk of catching the virus, or being ill from it, if I have coronary artery disease, or a previous stent or bypass operation?

    At present there is no good reason to believe that having had a previous bypass graft operation more than three months ago, or a previous angioplasty would increase your risk of catching coronavirus (COVID-19).

    Patients who have weakened heart muscle may have more serious consequences from catching the virus, and should seek advice but the fact that you may have heart artery narrowings, or previous stenting or grafting in itself does not appear to give rise to an extra risk.

    If you are recovering from a major illness (for example a heart attack in the last six weeks) or a major operation (for example an open heart operation in the past three months) then you might be expected to be more vulnerable to the virus and should take extra precautions.

  • I have been referred to the service but have not heard anything

    We know that this is a concerning time, especially if you have an existing health problem or have been referred to see a cardiologist.

    We have received your referral and if your appointment is urgent, you will be scheduled for a face-to-face appointment or a clinician may contact you by phone.

    We are currently not scheduling any new patients unless they are clinically urgent. All other patients will remain on our waiting list and we will be in touch with you as soon as we can.

  • I am on medication prescribed by your team and am not sure if I should stop them

    Do not stop any medication unless specifically told to do so by your clinical team. 

    Based on the current evidence, the team strongly recommends that all patient using ACE-i/ARB for hypertension, post MI LV dysfunction, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, and heart failure with reduced ejection fraction should continue treatment with their usual therapy during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

  • I have an appointment soon and have not heard from you

    We know that this is a concerning time, especially if you have an existing health problem or have an upcoming appointment with a specialist. We are attempting to contact all patients in advance of your appointment. If you haven’t heard from us and your appointment is less than three days away please contact us on gst-tr.heartfailurenurses@nhs.net.

  • I am unable to get in touch with my usual doctor or nurse and am worried

    We are really sorry as we know it is a very stressful time, especially if you can’t speak to the people who know you best.

    Our heart failure unit is a large team, and lots of us have (and will be) deployed to help other teams during this unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus situation.

    Another doctor or nurse may be handling your care and will contact you in the meantime.

  • I have symptoms that are worrying me

    If you have symptoms that could be a medical emergency (such as a heart attack or stroke), dial 999.

    If you are concerned that your symptoms relate to coronavirus (COVID-19), you should use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do. To protect yourself from exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19), you should remain at home and follow government advice on social distancing and self-isolation.

    Whether or not you have coronavirus symptoms, it is essential to come to hospital if you have a medical emergency, or if your heart symptoms get much worse.

    Despite the pressure that the NHS is under, you should always dial 999 immediately if you:

    • have sudden chest pain which spreads to your arms, back, neck or jaw
    • have sudden chest pain which feels heavy or tight
    • show signs of a stroke, such as your face drooping on one side, are unable to hold both arms up, or have difficulty speaking.
    • have severe difficulty breathing such as gasping for breath, choking, lips turning blue, or not being able to get words out.

    If the symptoms are related to the condition that are long standing and you need specific clinical advice from our team please contact us on gst-tr.heartfailurenurses@nhs.net.

  • My medication is running out and I need a prescription

    If your medication is usually prescribed by your GP contact the surgery. If we usually prescribe your medication, please contact us on gst-tr.heartfailurenurses@nhs.net.

  • I have heart disease and am worried about getting coronavirus (COVID-19). Should I shield myself/self-isolate?

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) can make anyone seriously ill. But some people are at a higher risk and need to take extra steps to avoid becoming unwell. Having a heart and circulatory condition probably doesn't make you any more likely to catch coronavirus than anyone else. But if you have a heart or circulatory condition it may mean that you could get more ill if you get coronavirus, which is why it’s really important to protect yourself.

    Some heart patients are considered at extremely high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). You are classed as extremely vulnerable if you have had an organ transplant at any time, or are pregnant with significant heart disease. If you are in one of these groups, you should protect yourself by staying at home and minimising contact with people you live with, for the next 12 weeks. This is called shielding.

    If this applies to you, you will be contacted directly by the NHS with further advice. If you think you fall into one of these categories but have not received a letter, email or text by Thursday April 2, you should discuss your concerns with your GP or specialist doctor or nurse.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new disease and we don't know everything about who is most at risk of complications. Other heart patients may still be at particularly high risk or high risk. This list is based on the best information available from relevant experts. It is possible that other conditions could put you at risk that we don't know about yet, so it's important that everyone works hard not to catch or spread coronavirus.

    Even if you are not at extremely high risk, you should be staying at home apart from essential needs as per current advice, as you may still be at particularly high risk because of your heart condition. You may be at particularly high risk if you have:

    • heart disease and are over 70
    • heart disease and lung disease/chronic kidney disease
    • angina that restricts your daily life or means you have to use your GTN frequently
    • heart failure, especially if it restricts your daily life or you've been admitted to hospital to treat your heart failure in the past year
    • heart valve disease that is severe and associated with symptoms (such as if you regularly feel breathless, or you have symptoms from your heart valve problem despite medication, or if you are waiting for valve surgery). A heart murmur that does not cause you symptoms doesn't put you at high risk.
    • you're recovering from recent open-heart surgery in the last three months (including heart bypass surgery)
    • cardiomyopathy (any type) if you have symptoms such as breathlessness, or it limits your daily life, or you’ve been told you have problems with your heart function
    • congenital heart disease (any type) if you also have any of the following: lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, heart failure, you’re over 70, you are pregnant, or if you have complex congenital heart disease (such as Fontan, single ventricle or cyanosis).

    To learn more about people in the higher risk and extremely vulnerable groups and what they should do, please visit the Gov.uk website and the British Heart Foundation’s page, Coronavirus: what it means for you if you have heart or circulatory disease.

  • Should I stop smoking because of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

    All the evidence suggests smokers are at higher risk of complications from coronavirus (COVID-19).

    Smoking increases your risk of catching it (because you touch your mouth more frequently when smoking) and because it damages your lungs and general health.

    If you smoke, please try to stop smoking today.