Levaquin is an antibiotic that is linked to heart valve problems, heart failure, aortic aneurysms, heart attacks, and sudden death.
What is the problem?
Levaquin is known to damage connective tissue and collagen throughout the body, with tendon ruptures being a particularly common side effect. Unfortunately, the heart contains a similar type of connective tissue. In a recent study, experts found higher rates of severe heart problems within 60 day of taking Levaquin and other fluoroquinolone antibiotics.
What is the Risk?
- Heart failure
- Heart valve problems
- Heart attack
- Hospitalization for heart problems
- Aortic aneurysm (aortic dissection)
Can Levaquin Cause Heart Failure?
Experts believe that Levaquin may cause heart problems by damaging the delicate collagen and connective tissues in the aortic and mitral heart valves. This causes problems with backward blood-flow in the heart. It can also lead to heart failure.
Study Links Antibiotics and Heart Valve Problems
In September 2019, a study found that people who currently or recently used fluoroquinolone antibiotics such as Levaquin were more likely to suffer a severe heart problem called an aortic valve regurgitation or a mitral valve regurgitation.
Aortic and mitral regurgitation is the leakage of blood backward through the valves each time the heart pumps. Essentially, blood flows back into the heart instead of pumping out because the tiny flaps that open and shut inside each valve do not shut completely.
This forces the heart to pump harder, which can lead to heart failure over time. Unfortunately, symptoms often do not occur until the patient develops heart failure.
The lead author warned, “Like the aorta, the healthy human aortic and mitral valves are also made up of collagen and connective tissue … When the valve connective tissue is compromised, it can lead to mitral valve prolapse and mitral regurgitation.”
The conclusions of the study were based on data from over 9 million people from the United States. The risk of aortic and mitral regurgitation was highest with current use of fluoroquinolones, followed by recent use (within the past 60 days). No risk was observed for people who had used a fluoroquinolone more than 60 days ago.
The study, Fluoroquinolones and Cardiac Valve Regurgitation was published in September 2019 by Mahyar Etminan, PharmD, MSc, and colleagues in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Heart Failure Warning Signs & Symptoms
Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to supply the body with enough blood. The most common signs of heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen legs, and a rapid or irregular heartbeat. A weak heart can also cause coughing due to congested lungs, fluid retention in the legs, dizziness, weakness, confusion, and more.
FDA Warning: Levaquin and Aortic Aneurysms
In December 2018, the FDA issued a Drug Safety Communication to warn about an increased risk of aortic aneurisms (ruptures or tears in the aorta blood vessel) for patients on Levaquin. Just like the heart, the aorta contains collagen and connective tissue that can be permanently damaged by Levaquin.
What is an Aortic Aneurysm?
Aortic aneurysms occur when the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, suddenly rips open. It causes severe internal bleeding and often sudden death. Patients may have no idea their aorta is about to burst open until it does, but the early symptoms sometimes include sudden, severe, and constant pain in the stomach, chest, or back.