Telestroke Consultations Down During COVID-19 Pandemic

The median number of weekly consults seen through a telestroke network decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Black patients significantly less likely to present with strokes, according to a study published online Aug. 5 in Stroke.

Cori Cummings, MD, from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and colleagues conducted a retrospective chart review of consecutive patients seen through a telestroke network in South Carolina from March 2019 to April 2020. Patients were dichotomized to pre-COVID-19 pandemic (March 2019 to February 2020) and COVID-19 pandemic (March to April 2020).

Data were included for 5,852 patients, 613 (10.5 percent) of whom were seen during the pandemic. The researchers found that during the pandemic, the median number of weekly consults decreased from 112 to 77. No difference was seen in baseline features; however, during the pandemic, Black patients were less likely to present with strokes (13.9 versus 29 percent).

“More concerning is the fact that the decline in number of Black patients presenting with stroke was not associated with an increased stroke severity in patients who presented, which might indicate that even patients with severe strokes did not present to emergency rooms for evaluation,” the authors write. “If not addressed, this reluctance in seeking care may worsen the existing disparity in stroke outcome.”

One author disclosed financial ties to Penumbra, Stryker, Terumo, and Cerenovus.

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