One of the disturbing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the effect on people with other health disorders. Factors like fear of possible infection or lack of immediate support may be stopping people from seeking out treatment for other problems. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that stoke evaluations during the pandemic fell by a worrying 39 percent. Since there are no indications to suppose a drop in incidents of strokes, these figures indicate that people who suffer from stroke may not be seeking life-saving medical aid.
The research was carried out by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine after it was observed that a very low number of stroke patients were being evaluated. This was despite the fact that strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the US and one of the main causes of long-term disability. However, chances of recovering are also high as long as the treatment is received promptly. This is why the low evaluation rates raised alarm bells.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking to meet a patient who might have recovered from a stroke but, for whatever reason, waited too long to seek treatment,” said Akash Kansagra, one of the lead authors of the study, as reported on the university website. He is an assistant professor of radiology at Washington University’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology. The team decided to reach out to other hospitals to gauge the number of evaluations.
To estimate the number of people seeking aid for stroke, the team relied on data from software known as RAPID. This software is used to evaluate any stroke admission. In all, they studied 231,753 patients from 856 hospitals. They found that while the software was used at an average of 1.18 patients per day per hospital in February, it dropped to 0.72 patients per day during the pandemic period. This was a drop of 39%.
Worryingly, this trend was seen across the board and even in cities where there were few COVID-19 patients and the healthcare system was not overburdened. “I suspect we are witnessing a combination of patients being reluctant to seek care out of fear that they might contract COVID-19, and the effects of social distancing,” Kansagra speculated. Emergency response also depends on the immediate action of people who live with the patient. “In an era when we are all isolating at home, it may be that patients who have strokes aren’t discovered quickly enough,” added Kansagra.