Admissions for Stroke, TIA Down Early in COVID-19 Pandemic

Emergency department stroke alerts decreased, and stroke severity as measured by NIHSS increased

patient on stretcher

THURSDAY, Aug. 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Admissions for stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) have decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online Aug. 26 in Stroke and Vascular Neurology.

Malveeka Sharma, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues retrospectively compiled total weekly hospital admissions for stroke and TIA during the time period of Dec. 31, 2018, to April 21, 2019, compared with the time period from Dec. 30, 2019, to April 19, 2020, at five academic stroke centers in cities with early COVID-19 outbreaks.

The researchers observed a decline in stroke/TIA admissions and emergency department stroke alerts during Dec. 30, 2019, to April 19, 2020, compared with Dec. 31, 2018, to April 21, 2019, coinciding with state stay-at-home recommendations in late March. The biggest decrease in hospital admissions occurred between March 23 and April 19, 2020, which was 31 percent lower than the corresponding weeks in 2019. At three of the five centers with 2019 and 2020 stroke alert data available, there was a 46 percent decrease seen in late March and April 2020 versus 2019. During these four weeks, the median baseline National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale was 10 and 7 in 2020 and 2019, respectively. No difference was seen in time from symptom onset to hospital arrival.

"Decreased health care access or utilization may lead to more disabling or fatal strokes, or more severe non-neurological complications related to stroke," the authors write. "Our findings underscore the indirect effects of this pandemic."

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