Analysis: Patients Delayed Acute Ischemic Stroke Care Due to COVID-19

A new analysis in the Journal of Neurointerventional Surgery suggests that patients delayed obtaining stroke care due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting previous data suggesting that the coronavirus had increase patient avoidance for acute ischemic stroke care, this new study showed that patients were delaying arrival at hospitals by up to 160 minutes compared to the same period last year (pre-COVID-19).

“When it comes to stroke treatment, every minute counts,” lead author Dr. Clemens Schirmer, of Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, said in a press release. “My colleagues and I have been devastated to see patients arriving at the hospital too late for us to help them. Our findings indicate a dire need for public education to address COVID-19 related fears to ensure people with stroke symptoms seek the lifesaving care they need without delay.”

The authors for the prospective study looked at the interval between the last-known-well (LKW) time and disease presentation in 710 consecutive patients presenting with acute ischemic stroke to 12 U.S. centers. They specifically observed the timing and severity of baseline presentation between February to March 2019 and compared them with the results of the same time period in 2020 during the pandemic.

According to the results, there was a marked decrease in the patients presenting at baseline in 2019 between February and March compared with 2020 (there were 227 patients presenting in February 2020 and 163 patients presenting in March 2020). The authors reported no additional severity in presentation between the two cohorts and no age differences between the two years. The mean interval from LKW to presentation was longer during the COVID-19 period (603±1035 min) compared to 2019 (442±435 min, P<0.02).

Society of Neurointerventional Surgery (SNIS) president Dr. Richard P. Klucsnik urged patients with what they think are stroke symptoms not to wait to get treatment.

“Stroke care teams across the country have implemented protocols to safeguard patients from COVID-19,” Klucznik said. “A stroke will not go away if you ignore it, and delaying treatment could eliminate your chance for recovery. It’s critical to pay attention to any symptoms of stroke and call 911 right away.”