Neurohospitalist. 2020 Oct;10(4):291-292. doi: 10.1177/1941874420929199. Epub 2020 May 26.
For decades, neurologists have been advocating that anyone with acute focal deficits report immediately to the closest hospital’s emergency room. Major advancements in the hyperacute diagnosis and treatment of stroke have justified our call-to-action slogan of “Time is Brain”-faster therapy leads to superior outcomes. However, this mantra has been recently usurped by the catchphrase “Stay at Home” during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Fewer patients are presenting to hospitals with acute stroke; our census is down. Presumably the etiology of this phenomenon is either strict “social distancing” that some people may misperceive to exclude even emergent situations, or fears of contracting the virus while hospitalized. In this Short Report, we describe the year-over-year drop in stroke volume (ischemic and hemorrhagic both) coinciding with a paradoxical rise in acute reperfusion therapies at our university hospital. These data imply that stroke patients with mild/moderate symptoms are most likely staying home, and not receiving urgent therapies, and correspondingly, only the most severely disabled stroke patients are ultimately seeking and receiving help. We must remind our patients and the general public that our services are essential and available, as stroke still remains a medical emergency, and carries a likely higher overall mortality risk than COVID-19. As neurologists, we also must be vigilant for the atypical presentations and varied etiologies of stroke associated with COVID-19 as well.