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.

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Contact person:

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

Principal investigators

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and dementia are closely intertwined, often resulting in cognitive impairment among individuals with cardiovascular or cerebrovascular conditions. Approximately one-third of dementia cases are linked to vascular injury, emphasizing that vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) is a preventable aspect of cognitive decline. The Focus The Heart-Brain Connection Crossroads (HBCx) consortium investigates hemodynamic alterations as reversible contributors to VCI, seeking to enhance our understanding of the connection between cardiovascular health and cognitive function. The Research HBCx builds upon the foundation laid by HBC1 (CVON 2012-06), which established a national network dedicated to studying, diagnosing, and treating VCI. Clinical investigations within HBC1, focusing on patients with chronic heart failure (CHF), carotid occlusive disease (COD), and clinically evident VCI, emphasized the role of hemodynamics along the heart-brain axis in VCI. These findings underscored significant associations between heart-brain connections and VCI. The HBCx program, launched in 2019, takes a comprehensive approach by investigating hemodynamics in key cardiac conditions such as atrial fibrillation and heart failure, while also exploring vascular factors and their interplay with amyloid pathology. Moreover, HBCx considers modulating factors like age and sex. The program aims to improve early detection, identify treatable targets, and integrate the Heart-Brain Connection approach into routine care. Ultimately, the long-term vision of HBCx is to reduce VCI prevalence among CVD patients through enhanced understanding and innovative treatment strategies. Grants, awards and Dissertations Alzheimer Nederland (2020) - L. Exalto: Does sexe modulate the phenotype and prognosis of vascular cognitive impairment. Cross Cohort Collaboration, NIH project from Unit Texas - Arfan Ikram. PPS project ÏmProVas" Hartstichting met Quantib and HBC partners (EMC, AUMC, UMCU) - Esther Bron Doeschka Ferro (27-10-2020) Dissertation: Causes and consequences of cerebral microinfarcts Characterizing the “(in)visible”lesion Eline Oudeman (4-7-2019) Dissertation: Transient Neurological Attacks Annebet Leeuwis (2-7-2019): Dissertation: Connecting heart and brain: vascular determinants of cognitive impairment and depressive symptoms Frank Wolters (5-9-2018) Dissertation: On the Origin of Dementia. A Population Perspective on Risk and Aetiology Publications A selection: CBF TAVI Microinfarcts in COD Cerebral arterial perforator on 7T MRI Microinfarcts HF  CBF en cognition Sex differences Neural tract segementation HBC clinic Cognition baseline  CBF LV segmentation long axis Hypotension  Vasoreactivity  Vascular cognitive impairment  Excersion-VCI design HBC1 Design  HBC approach Dutch
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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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