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May 28, 2020

Study Confirms Stroke Patients Are Significantly Delaying Treatment During COVID-19 Pandemic

May 28, 2020—The Get Ahead of Stroke campaign from the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery (SNIS) announced the publication of data showing ischemic stroke patients are arriving to hospitals and treatment centers an average of 160 minutes later during the COVID-19 pandemic, as compared with a similar timeframe in 2019. These delays, say stroke surgeons from the SNIS, are impacting both survival and recovery. The study by Clemens M. Schirmer, MD, et al is available online ahead of print in Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery.

According to Get Ahead of Stroke, this is the first study to confirm suspected stroke patient avoidance. Investigators assessed 710 patients presenting with acute ischemic strokes at 12 stroke centers across six states. They compared the period of February and March 2019 (the baseline period) to February 2020 (the pre-COVID-19 period) and March 2020 (the COVID-19 period).

In addition to the delay in treatment, the study also found a marked decrease in overall reported stroke patients, from 223 to 167, in these same treatment centers from February to March 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement noted that previous research has estimated that for every minute lost before receiving appropriate care, there is an associated medical cost of $1,000 for short- and long-term care. A 160-minute delay amounts to the loss of 320 million brain cells and $160,000 in additional medical costs.

“When it comes to stroke treatment, every minute counts,” commented Dr. Schirmer in the Get Ahead of Stroke announcement. “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.” Dr. Schirmer is based at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

SNIS President Richard P. Klucznik, MD, added, “Stroke care teams across the country have implemented protocols to safeguard patients from COVID-19. 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.”

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