Currently, it is largely unknown to what extent the heart is involved in COVID-19. The aim of this project is to assess the incidence and consequences of cardiac damage in patients who have experienced COVID-19. How often does COVID-19 lead to myocardial damage? What are the short- and long-term consequences of this damage and what can we do to prevent it from occurring? These are the central questions that will be answered within the DEFENCE consortium.

The Research
The DEFENCE consortium integrates several national studies initiated at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, encompassing diverse patient groups as part of the COPP study, ranging from elite athletes (COMMIT study) and individuals recovering at home (COVID@Heart study) to hospitalized patients (CAPACITY-COVID registry and CAPACITY 2 study) and children with post-infection inflammatory syndromes affecting the heart (MIS-C). By harmonizing these initiatives, a unique cohort spanning the entire spectrum of COVID-19 severity has been established.

The ongoing studies are extended at multiple levels within the DEFENCE project. This includes:

Standardized Healthcare Pathway Implementation: Implementing and evaluating a standardized healthcare pathway to assess cardiac damage occurrence within 6 months post-hospitalization for COVID-19.
Serial Cardiac Magnetic Resonance (CMR) Imaging: Performing serial CMR imaging to determine the prevalence and reversibility of myocardial damage, with all scans assessed in a core lab.
Evaluation of Cardiovascular Symptoms: Assessing the incidence of cardiovascular symptoms such as chest pain and palpitations in the post-acute phase through patient questionnaires.
Linking Data to National Datasets: Linking study data to national datasets at Statistics Netherlands to analyze long-term cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. To evaluate whether cardiovascular disease is a characteristic feature of COVID-19, a comparison with other respiratory tract infections, including seasonal influenza will be made.

This research has is funded by ZonMw, but has been set up through the efforts of WCN, NLHI, NHR, the Dutch Heart Foundation, NVVC, NVIC, Harteraad, and the EuroQol Research Foundation, who collaborate within the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance.

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Contact person:

Drs. M.P.M. Linschoten (Marijke)

Principal investigators

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Individuals with atrial fibrillation are at increased risk of an ischemic stroke. Active detection of atrial fibrillation (AF) and optimal referral and treatment of patients could prevent an estimated 1500 ischemic strokes annually. Effective collaboration between primary and secondary care professionals is essential for achieving this goal of stroke prevention attributed to AF. This is the primary objective of the implementation consortium known as CUSTOM-AF. The CUSTOM-AF was founded in June 2020 and restarted in 2022. CUSTOM-AF implementation consortium aims to share successful practice examples with regional networks and develop guidelines for organizing active detection and integrated care within a network. Additionally, consortium partners seek innovative methods for general practitioners to detect and manage AF without necessitating hospital referrals. With this consortium, the Dutch Heart Foundation, NVVC Connect, Harteraad, and the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance, all work together towards optimal care for patients with AF. The Dutch College of General Practitioners (NHG) serves as a key advisor to the consortium. The Research The scope of the consortium has been expanded to include two disorders: heart failure and AF. The consortium has undertaken significant initiatives over the past two years (2020-2022) to advance its objectives: Guideline Development: The consortium developed the "Screening and Treatment Optimization for AF" guideline, designed to facilitate early detection of AF within regional healthcare systems. Cost-Effectiveness Analysis: A comprehensive analysis conducted to assess various screening scenarios for AF, evaluating the economic feasibility of different approaches. Thematic Collaboration: In early 2022, a thematic collaboration titled "Juiste Hartzorg op de Juiste Plek" was established in partnership with the Heart Foundation and ZonMw. This collaboration secured funding for 22 regions to support transmural collaboration on AF and HF, with a focus on early detection and treatment optimization. Moving forward from September 2022, NVVC Connect will intensify support for the regions by emphasizing continuous improvement through the PDCA cycle, facilitating knowledge sharing, and implementing innovative approaches such as Check@home. These efforts are aimed at strengthening collaboration and improving outcomes in AF and HF care across the participating regions.
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The successful treatment of congenital heart disease (ConHD) has greatly increased the survival of children with this condition. Many of these defects require surgical or catheter interventions immediately after birth. However, complete restoration of the defect is often unachievable, a high risk of developing heart failure, arrhythmias, sudden cardiac death or blood vessel dilatation or stenosis relatively early in life. Currently, there is a lack of personalized risk predictors and optimal clinical decision tools, highlighting an unmet need to develop new effective strategies for treating and preventing ventricular failure, arrhythmias, and large vessel diseases. The Focus The OUTREACH consortium focuses on specific types of congenital heart diseases (ConHD) related to outflow tract defects, such as transposition of the great arteries, congenital aortic stenosis, and tetralogy of Fallot, which collectively account for over half of all ConHD cases. The goal of OUTREACH is to reduce the risk of mortality and morbidity and improve the quality of life for these patients (both children and adults) by improving follow-up practices based on outcomes, implementing personalized risk assessment tools, and advancing therapeutic strategies. The Research The OUTREACH consortium integrates expertise in preclinical research, developmental biology, disease modeling, and clinical research from academic centers specializing in pediatric and adult congenital cardiology and surgery. Its objectives are: identifying better parameters for risk assessment and early detection of heart failure or ventricular arrhythmias in ConHD patients with outflow tract defects. Exploring efficient treatments to enhance adaptation and prevent heart failure and vascular damage in at-risk ConHD patients. This consortium conducts extensive research involving a large cohort of ConHD patients to unravel the underlying causes and mechanisms of cardiac adaptations following surgical interventions. It investigates the molecular mechanisms responsible for outflow tract defects and evaluates whether stimulating heart regeneration in ConHD models can mitigate adverse remodeling and heart failure. Additionally, the consortium explores new non-invasive imaging techniques and blood-derived biomarkers to develop innovative risk analysis tools for clinical decision-making. In OUTREACH a nationwide registry is created for all patients (children and adults) with ConHD in the Netherlands by harmonizing existing registries KinCor and ConCor. This is an important step towards optimizing the quality of care for the ConHD population and fostering scientific research on ConHD. Origin The Dutch Heart Foundation and Stichting Hartekind, who collaborate within the Dutch CardioVascular Alliance, initiated an invitational grant to start and fund large-scale research aimed at earlier detection and better treatment of the consequences of congenital heart defects.
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