Signature STEMI Sign May Be Less Diagnostic in the COVID-19 Age

The ACC/SCAI statement proposed that “fibrinolysis can be considered an option for the relatively stable STEMI patient with active COVID-19” after careful consideration of possible patient benefit vs the risks of cath-lab personnel exposure to the virus, as theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology recently reported.

Only six patients in the current series, including five in the STEMI group, are reported to have had chest pain at about the time of STE, observed MichaelJ. Blaha, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, who isn’t associated with the publication.

So, he said in an interview, “one of their points is that you have to take ST elevations with a grain of salt in this [COVID-19] era, because there are a lot of people presenting with ST elevations in the absence of chest pain.”

That, and the high prevalence of nonobstructive disease in the series, indeed argues against the use of fibrinolytic therapy in such patients, Blaha said.

Normally, when there is STE, “the pretest probability of STEMI is so high, and if you can’t make it to the cath lab for some reason, sure, it makes sense to give lytics.” However, he said, “COVID-19 is changing the clinical landscape. Now, with a variety of virus-mediated myocardial injury presentations, including myocarditis, the pretest probability of MI is lower.”

The current report “confirms that in the COVID era, ST elevations are not diagnostic for MI and must be considered within the totality of clinical evidence, and a conservative approach to going to the cath lab is probably warranted,” Blaha told theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology.

However, with the reduced pretest probability of STE for STEMI, he agreed, “I almost don’t see any scenario where I’d be comfortable, based on ECG changes alone, giving lytics at this time.”

Bangalore pointed out that all of the 18 patients in the series had elevated levels of the fibrin degradation product D-dimer, a biomarker that reflects ongoing hemostatic activation. Levels were higher in the eight patients who ultimately received a STEMI diagnosis than in the remaining 10 patients.

But COVID-19 patients in general may have elevated D-dimer and “a lot of microthrombi,” he said. “So the question is, are those microthrombi also causal for any of the ECG changes we are also seeing?”


Aside from microthrombi, global hypoxia and myocarditis could be other potential causes of STE in COVID-19 patients in the absence of STEMI, Bangalore proposed. “At this point we just generally don’t know.”