Decrease in stroke diagnoses during the COVID-19 pandemic: Where did all our stroke patients go?

Adrienne Nicole Dula, Gretchel Gealogo Brown, Aarushi Aggarwal, Kal L. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Despite the evidence suggesting a high rate of cerebrovascular complications in patients with SARS-CoV-2, reports have indicated decreasing rates of new ischemic stroke diagnoses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The observed decrease in emergency department (ED) visits is unsurprising during this major crisis, as patients are likely to prioritize avoiding exposure to SARS-CoV-2 over addressing what they may perceive as mild symptoms of headache, lethargy, difficulty speaking, and numbness. In the central and south Texas regions where we practice, we suspect that patient admission, treatment, and discharge volumes for acute stroke treatment have decreased significantly since COVID-19-related shelter-at-home orders were issued. Symptoms of stroke are frequently noticed by a family member, friend, or community member before they are recognized by the patients themselves, and these symptoms may be going unnoticed due to limited face-to-face encounters. This possibility emphasizes the importance of patient education regarding stroke warning signs and symptoms during the current period of isolation and social-distancing. The south Texas population, already saddled with above-average rates of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, has a higher stroke mortality rate compared to Texas and U.S. averages; however, the number of patients presenting to EDs with acute ischemic stroke diagnoses is lower than average. In our viewpoint, we aim to present the relative literature to date and outline our ongoing analyses of the highly affected and diverse stroke populations in San Antonio and Austin, Texas, to answer a simple question: where did all our stroke patients go?

Keywords

  • Cerebrovascular
  • COVID-19
  • Emergency medicine
  • Ischemic stroke
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Gerontology
  • Health Informatics
  • Health(social science)

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