Maintaining stroke care in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic: Results from an international survey of stroke professionals and practice recommendations from the European Stroke Organisation

Eur Stroke J. 2020 Sep;5(3):230-236. doi: 10.1177/2396987320933746. Epub 2020 Jun 10.


Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been placing an overwhelming burden on health systems, thus threatening their ability to operate effectively for acute conditions in which treatments are highly time sensitive, such as cerebrovascular disorders and myocardial infarction. As part of an effort to reduce the consequences of this outbreak on health service delivery to stroke patients, the European Stroke Organisation has undertaken a survey aimed at collecting information on the provision of stroke care during the pandemic.

Methods: Cross-sectional, web-based survey, conducted from 26 March through 1 April 2020 among stroke care providers, focused on reorganisation of health services, the delivery of acute and post-acute stroke care and the availability of personal protective equipment.

Results: A total of 426 stroke care providers from 55 countries completed the survey, most of whom worked in Europe (n = 375, 88%) and were stroke physicians/neurologists (n = 334, 78%). Among European respondents, 289 (77%) reported that not all stroke patients were receiving the usual care in their centres and 266 (71%) estimated that functional outcomes and recurrence rates of stroke patients would be negatively affected by the organisational changes caused by the pandemic. The areas considered as being most affected were acute care and rehabilitation. Most professionals had to adapt their activities and schedules and more than half reported shortage of protective equipment.

Discussion: Strategies to maintain availability of stroke care during the COVID-19 outbreak are crucial to prevent indirect mortality and disability due to suboptimal care.

Conclusion: European Stroke Organisation proposes a set of targeted actions for decision makers facing this exceptional situation.

Keywords: COVID-19; Stroke; health services; stroke care.