- Analysis of hospital records in South Carolina, a state in the Stroke Belt, noted a drop in telestroke consultations (videoconference with stroke specialists) for stroke symptoms especially among African Americans during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- African Americans are at greater risk for stroke in general and have had higher rates of contracting COVID-19.
- Last month, the American Heart Association launched Don’t Die of Doubt™, a new public education and awareness campaign to remind all Americans that the hospital remains the safest place to be if they experience symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke.
DALLAS, Aug. 5, 2020 — The COVID-19-related hesitancy to seek medical care at a hospital may be disproportionately affecting African American stroke patients, according to new research published today in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association.
In the study, “African Americans are Less Likely to Present with Strokes During COVID-19 Pandemic - Observations from the Stroke Belt,” neurology specialists in South Carolina analyzed trends in interactive videoconferencing consultation for remote stroke care, also known as telestroke, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston is the hub for a large, video-based telestroke network serving more than 38 hospitals throughout the state. South Carolina is part of the Stroke Belt – states in the southeastern U.S. where stroke death rates are as much as 34% higher than in other parts of the country.
Researchers compared the electronic health records of more than 5,800 stroke patients who received care through the University’s telestroke service before the pandemic (March 2019-February 2020) and during the first two months of the pandemic (March-April 2020). The median number of weekly telestroke consultations dropped from 112 during the 12 months before the pandemic to 77 during the first two months of the pandemic. The analysis also found that African Americans were less likely to present with strokes during the pandemic – dropping from 29% of all patients in the 12 months before the pandemic to 13.9% of the 613 stroke patients during the first two months of the pandemic.
“The lower percentage of African Americans patients who presented with strokes – even those with severe symptoms – during the pandemic is an alarming finding,” said Eyad Almallouhi, M.D., lead study author and a neurologist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. The researchers remarked that African Americans patients have higher risk factors for stroke, higher in-hospital mortality and a greater burden of stroke disability. African Americans patients are also suffering from a higher incidence of COVID-19 infection, as well as an increased mortality rate.
“These results exemplify the crucial need for continued public health education about the importance of immediate stroke care,” noted the study authors.
Last month, the American Heart Association launched a new public education and awareness campaign called Don’t Die of Doubt™ to remind all Americans that the hospital remains the safest place to be if they experience symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke.
Co-authors are Cori Cummings, M.D.; Sami Al Kasab, M.D.; Alejandro Spiotta, M.D.; and Christine Holmstedt, D.O. The authors had no disclosures and listed no funding sources for this study.
Additional COVID-19 Resources:
- New campaign addresses alarming drop in 9-1-1 calls, ER visits fueled by COVID-19 fears
- Twenty Years of Progress Toward Understanding the Stroke Belt
- Prehospital Triage of Acute Stroke Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Temporary Emergency Guidance to US Stroke Centers During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic
- Encuentre más historias en español de AHA News aquí.
- Follow news from Stroke, the ASA/AHA journal, @StrokeAHA_ASA
About the American Stroke Association
The American Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from stroke — the No. 2 cause of death in the world and a leading cause of serious disability. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat stroke. The Dallas-based association officially launched in 1998 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit stroke.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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