Hospital admissions for stroke dropped by nearly a third during the coronavirus lockdown, according to a new report published in the journal Stroke and Vascular Neurology.
The findings add to a growing body of research that fear of contracting the virus at a hospital, stay-at-home orders, and a dramatic cutback in nonurgent care resulted in patients not seeking care for critical medical needs.
Researchers reviewed stroke and “mini-stroke” hospital admissions in the first four months of the year at stroke centers in Boston, New York City, Providence, R.I., and Seattle, compared with the same period last year. They found the greatest decline in stroke cases — a 31% drop — in mid-March through mid-April, when many states issued stay-at-home orders in an effort to curtail a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Our findings underscore the indirect effects of this pandemic. Public health officials, hospital systems and healthcare providers must continue to encourage patients with stroke to seek acute care during this crisis,” researchers from University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Harvard Medical School, Brown University, Boston University School of Medicine, and Columbia University wrote in the conclusion of their study.
Philadelphia-area hospitals were not part of the study but reported a similar, troubling decline in stroke cases, as well as heart attack cases in the spring:
Critical heart and stroke patients have been returning to hospitals since stay-home orders were lifted, but doctors still worry that patients who did not seek care when they needed it may have done more harm to their health.