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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 3

Giant Inverse T-wave in a Patient with COVID-19

1 Medical and Surgical Research Center, School of Medicine, University of Cartagena, Cartagena, Colombia
2 Medical and Surgical Research Center, School of Medicine, University of Cartagena; Department of Medicine, Colombian Clinical Research Group in Neurocritical Care, University of Cartagena, Cartagena, Colombia
3 Department of Intensive Care, Regions Hospital, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA

Date of Submission03-Feb-2021
Date of Acceptance06-Jun-2021
Date of Web Publication23-Aug-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ivan David Lozada-Martinez
Medical and Surgical Research Center, School of Medicine, University of Cartagena, Cartagena
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jtccm.jtccm_12_21

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It has been described that COVID-19 is a dynamic behavior and systemic affectation entity, so it is essential to develop the diagnostic and prognostic tools which allows to specifically identify target organ damage. The electrocardiographic finding of an inverse T-wave suggests transient apical dysfunction of the left ventricle, generating confusion among different heart diseases. However, despite the lack of troponin elevation and other myocardial injury signs, this finding is unspecific, especially in the patient with COVID-19. The aim of this manuscript is to present the case of a patient with COVID-19 without a previous diagnosis of heart disease, which manifests an isolated inverse T-wave.

Keywords: COVID-19, electrocardiography, heart diseases, takotsubo cardiomyopathy

How to cite this article:
Camargo-Martinez WC, Lozada-Martinez ID, Osorio AA, Moscote-Salazar LR, Janjua T. Giant Inverse T-wave in a Patient with COVID-19. J Transl Crit Care Med 2021;3:3

How to cite this URL:
Camargo-Martinez WC, Lozada-Martinez ID, Osorio AA, Moscote-Salazar LR, Janjua T. Giant Inverse T-wave in a Patient with COVID-19. J Transl Crit Care Med [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Mar 31];3:3. Available from: http://www.tccmjournal.com/text.asp?2021/3/1/3/324284

  Introduction Top

A T-wave inversion (TWI) is defined as any wave measuring ≥1 mm in depth in two or more contiguous leads, excluding electrocardiographic lead aVR, III, and V1 leads. The clinical relevance of this finding depends largely on its location on the 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG).[1] The importance of identifying TWI on the ECG lies on its differential diagnoses discarding. It must be remembered that TWI confined to V1–V2 is a common finding in the general population and can also be seen in high-performance athletes (14%–28%).[2] Nevertheless, studies have estimated that the incidence of TWI in the middle-aged population is approximately 0.7%, and it is associated with an increase in the risk of arrhythmias and cardiac death.[1] In another hand, TWI in the inferolateral leads is always abnormal and indicates underlying cardiac pathology.[1] In relation to the above and in the current attempt to explain the different manifestations of COVID-19 disease, an association has been found between cardiovascular alterations and the presence of low-grade endocardial interstitial inflammation with the presence of viral particles in the myocardium of infected patients.[1] Due to this, considering that COVID-19 is an entity of dynamic behavior and systemic affectation, so it is essential to develop the diagnostic and prognostic tools which allows to specifically identify target organ damage. Hence, the aim of this manuscript is to present the case of a patient with COVID-19 without a previous diagnosis of heart disease, who manifests an isolated inverse T-wave.

  Case Report Top

A 60-year-old male patient with a history of controlled arterial hypertension came to the emergency room with a clinical picture of respiratory distress. Chest X-ray showed pulmonary consolidation with interstitial pattern compatible with pneumonia, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to confirm the suspicion of severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-Cov-2) infection, testing positive. An ECG was performed showing giant inverse T-waves in V2, V3, V4, and V5 leads (extensive anterior wall) [Figure 1], so troponin tests were requested due to the suspicion of myocardial ischemic event, obtaining negative results in both tests with a 6-h interval. Ionogram, D-dimer, creatine kinase-MB, and N-terminal prohormone BNP were found to be normal. Based on the above, a presumptive diagnosis of mild myocarditis secondary to COVID-19 was made.
Figure 1: Electrocardiogram showing regular RR interval; with a heart rate of 110 beats/min; PR interval 120 ms; QRS 80 ms; prolonged QT interval – 480 ms; sinus rhythm; normal cardiac electrical axis; giant negative T-waves from V2 to V5; left ventricular hypertrophy

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For this case, treatment of myocarditis was started with immunoglubulins (80 mg/day) for 4 days and methylprednisolone (500 mg/day) in a descending regimen for 14 days and antiviral treatment: interferon beta-1a 0.25 mg/48 h and ritonavir 400 mg/lopinavir 100 mg/12 h. Once medical management with hemodynamic, medical, and respiratory support was established, normalization of T-waves and significant reduction of the QTc interval (460 ms) were evidenced. The markers of cardiac damage such as troponins, MB, and BNP remained in their normal ranges.

The patient evolved satisfactorily from the hemodynamic point of view, progressively improving his clinical condition. He was left with pulmonary rehabilitation with therapies for optimal recovery of this disease. After 3 months of follow-up, the patient presented only dyspnea on slight exertion, which progressively decreased thanks to the use of physical exercise and respiratory therapies. A control electrocardiographic report is observed without significant findings.

  Discussion Top

Troponin elevation in patients with COVID-19 is presumed to be due to cardiomyocyte damage by SARS-CoV-2 rather than the typical coronary artery occlusion.[3] Moreover, in histopathological studies of patients with moderate–severe COVID-19 phenotype, low-grade endocardial interstitial inflammation with the presence of viral particles, in addition to loss of cytoplasmic membrane integrity, has been found. In these patients, there is no evidence of arterial obstruction in coronary studies, so it is presumed that the development of cardiogenic shock is directly related to myocarditis.[1] The presence of diffuse TWI with or without troponin elevation in this group of patients has been associated with very high mortality rates.[1] These findings allow us to observe the direct cardiac affectation because of SARS-CoV-2, and alert us to possible different pathogenic mechanisms of this virus. Among the cases reported in the literature [Table 1], arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus type II, and coronary heart disease are the most frequent comorbidities.[4] A recent study showed that elevation of proinflammatory molecules, such as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and IL-6, as well as markers of myocardial damage such as hs-cTnI and NT-proBNP, were associated with an increase in in-hospital mortality in all severe cases.[5] However, increased cardiac indicators had more important values than inflammatory factors in the prognostic assessment of patients with COVID-19,[4] which may possibly indicate direct myocardial affection by the viral infection other than the damage suffered by the myocardium due to systemic vascular and coronary involvement.
Table 1: Summary of studies reporting inverted T-wave in patients with coronavirus disease.2019

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In presence of a TWI, a differential diagnosis with Takotsubo syndrome[6] and Wellens' syndrome,[7] which have described the presence of this same alteration, must be made. Although studies in this regard are growing and there is too much to be clarified, there are possible explanations for a possible myocardial injury that may cause this electrocardiographic finding. It has been proposed that this damage arises mainly from two processes: first, due to the inflammatory response secondary to the presence of cytokine storm in the presence of infection,[8] and second, due to alterations in coagulation, causing thromboembolic complications that affect cardiac microcirculation.[9] More importantly, the direct mechanism that triggers myocarditis cannot be neglected.

The TWI location correlates well with the location of the segments with transmural edema which seems to be a prerequisite for TWI and therefore may be an indicator of underlying myocardial injury in these segments. On the other hand, diffuse TWI can be associated with global myocardial injury, as well as fulminant myocarditis in some cases.[1] Results need to be evaluated in a larger sample of patients, comparing the presence of diffuse TWI versus nondiffuse TWI, and determine whether any specific intervention can reduce mortality in these cases. Contrasting with the cases summarized in [Table 1], Romero et al.[1] Published in their case series a mean age of the study population of 66 ± 7 years, of which 51% were male and 71% of total TWI were observed in lateral leads. On the other hand, Barman et al.[4].in their original study classified their study population into severe and nonsevere groups with respect to the manifestation of the pathology and reported a mean age of 65 ± 13.8 years in the severe group with a higher mortality rate, no gender significance between both the groups, and electrocardiographic findings such as the presence of TWI and ST–T changes in this group. Therefore, we can find a relationship between the age of the patients and the cardiovascular manifestations with electrocardiographic alterations. In addition, it can be observed that all patients had comorbidities affecting the cardiometabolic system and were middle aged, so that the inflammatory process together with hemodynamic stress could have triggered the destabilization of an established atherosclerotic plaque secondary to the endothelial dysfunction generated by these cardiometabolic diseases, leading to vascular stasis, symptomatic myocarditis, and coronary obstruction.

The direct involvement of viral particles has been reliably related to the myocardial damage present in patients with COVID-19, the plasma concentration of interleukin-6 (IL-6) increases markedly in those with cardiac injury as well as the amino-terminal fraction of N-terminal brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) and cardiac troponins (cTnI/T). Considering that cytokine storm is also the central pathophysiological mechanism in fulminant myocarditis, it is logical to think of cardiac damage by COVID-19.[10],[11],[12] Patients with COVID-19 are at risk for cardiac arrhythmias, acute coronary syndromes, heart failure-related events, and fulminant myocarditis. Myocardial injury can occur at different phases of COVID-19 (e.g. viral, pulmonary, inflammatory, and recovery phases), even late after symptom onset. In addition, SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to establish a receptor-binding domain with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) before entering the host cells via endocytosis. Since more than 7.5% of myocardial cells have positive ACE2 expression, this could influence the entry of SARS-CoV2 into cardiomyocytes and cause direct cardiotoxicity.[13]

In addition, SARS-CoV-2 viral particles have been identified in cardiac tissue by real-time PCR testing, which has provided evidence to strengthen this theory.[13],[14],[15] On the other hand, IL-6 may provide a determining factor in explaining this phenomenon, as observed in the first case report of COVID-19 complicated with fulminant myocarditis; the patient in this case had significantly elevated IL-6, suggesting the presence of cytokine storms.[16] Cytokine storms may lead to increased vascular wall permeability and myocardial edema, which may explain the thickened interventricular septum in this patient. In addition, hypoxia may result in early and substantial inflammatory responses and cellular damage, which may cause rapid and substantial damage to the heart.[16] Based on these findings, the effects of underlying cardiovascular comorbidities and myocardial damage on the prognosis of patients with COVID-19 are significant. To exclude the impact of other confounders, multivariable-adjusted models have shown independent associations between cardiac injury and mortality, with hazard ratios ranging from 4.26 to 10.90.[17],[18]

Finally, it is important to note that these ECG findings were associated with higher rates of mechanical ventilation and mortality, particularly in the presence of troponin elevation.[1] Proper and timely identification of this ECG pattern could play an important role in identifying patients with COVID-19 at a higher risk of adverse events such as intubation and death. This phrase means that in those patients who have an incidental finding of inverted T wave, but who do not present any clinical manifestation, follow-up should be performed to evaluate whether in the short or medium term any manifestation may occur in patients who have and do not have a history of cardiovascular disease.

  Conclusion Top

High troponin levels accompanied by the presence of TWI are signs of bad prognosis in patients with COVID-19. Likewise, the appearance of ECG abnormalities such as TWI in the absence of respiratory symptoms suggests SARS-Cov-2 infection with myocardial affectation. This must be an alarm sign to execute the COVID-19 protocol and evaluate the cardiac and metabolic stability of the patient.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form, the patient has given her consent for her images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patient understands that name and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal the identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Romero J, Alviz I, Parides M, Diaz JC, Briceno D, Gabr M, et al. T-wave inversion as a manifestation of COVID-19 infection: A case series. J Interv Card Electrophysiol 2020;59:485-93.  Back to cited text no. 1
D'Ascenzi F, Anselmi F, Adami PE, Pelliccia A. Interpretation of T-wave inversion in physiological and pathological conditions: Current state and future perspectives. Clin Cardiol 2020;43:827-33.  Back to cited text no. 2
Inciardi RM, Lupi L, Zaccone G, Italia L, Raffo M, Tomasoni D, et al. Cardiac involvement in a patient with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). JAMA Cardiol 2020;5:819-24.  Back to cited text no. 3
Barman HA, Atici A, Alici G, Sit O, Tugrul S, Gungor B, et al. The effect of the severity COVID-19 infection on electrocardiography. Am J Emerg Med 2020;46:317-22.  Back to cited text no. 4
Manzur-Sandoval D, Carmona-Levario P, García-Cruz E. Giant inverted T waves in a patient with COVID-19 infection. Ann Emerg Med 2021;77:264-7.  Back to cited text no. 5
Suryawan IG Bakhriansyah J, Puspitasari M, Gandi P, Intan RE, Alkaff FF. To reperfuse or not to reperfuse: A case report of Wellens' syndrome with suspected COVID-19 infection. Egypt Heart J 2020;72:58.  Back to cited text no. 6
Doyen D, Moceri P, Ducreux D, Dellamonica J. Myocarditis in a patient with COVID-19: A cause of raised troponin and ECG changes. Lancet 2020;395:1516.  Back to cited text no. 7
He X, Wang L, Wang H, Xie Y, Yu Y, Sun J, et al. Factors associated with acute cardiac injury and their effects on mortality in patients with COVID-19. Sci Rep 2020;10:20452.  Back to cited text no. 8
Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, Ren L, Zhao J, Hu Y, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020;395:497-506.  Back to cited text no. 9
Lodigiani C, Iapichino G, Carenzo L, Cecconi M, Ferrazzi P, Sebastian T, et al. Venous and arterial thromboembolic complications in COVID-19 patients admitted to an academic hospital in Milan, Italy. Thromb Res 2020;191:9-14.  Back to cited text no. 10
Irabien-Ortiz Á Carreras-Mora J, Sionis A, Pàmies J, Montiel J, Tauron M. Fulminant myocarditis due to COVID-19. Rev Esp Cardiol 2020;73:503-4.  Back to cited text no. 11
Lozada-Martínez ID, Torres-Llinás DM, Moscote-Salazar LR. Myocardial lesion in patients with COVID-19: Not all is in the lung. J Taibah Univ Med Sci 2021;16:303-4.  Back to cited text no. 12
Caballeros Lam M, de la Fuente Villena A, Hernández Hernández A, García de Yébenes M, Bastarrika Alemañ G. Cardiac magnetic resonance characterization of COVID-19 myocarditis. Rev Esp Cardiol 2020;73:863-4.  Back to cited text no. 13
Standl E, Schnell O. Heart failure outcomes and Covid-19. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2021;175:108794.  Back to cited text no. 14
Caro-Codón J, Rey JR, Buño A, Iniesta AM, Rosillo SO, Castrejon-Castrejon S, et al. Characterization of myocardial injury in a cohort of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Med Clin (Barc) 2021;S0025-7753(21)00092-0.  Back to cited text no. 15
Zeng JH, Liu YX, Yuan J, Wang FX, Wu WB, Li JX, et al. First case of COVID-19 complicated with fulminant myocarditis: A case report and insights. Infection 2020;48:773-7.  Back to cited text no. 16
Alzahrani SH, Al-Rabia MW. Cardiac injury biomarkers and the risk of death in patients with COVID-19: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Cardiol Res Pract 2021;2021:9363569.  Back to cited text no. 17
Zhao YH, Zhao L, Yang XC, Wang P. Cardiovascular complications of SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19): A systematic review and meta-analysis. Rev Cardiovasc Med 2021;22:159-65.  Back to cited text no. 18


  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1]


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