Delayed care in myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke patients during the COVID-19 pandemic

Am J Emerg Med. 2022 Apr:54:326.e1-326.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2021.10.023. Epub 2021 Oct 25.


COVID-19 has profound direct health consequences, however secondary effects were much broader as rates of hospital visits steeply declined for non-COVID-19 concerns, including myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke, with patients choosing to wait longer before symptoms convince them to seek medical attention. Thus, patients where ischemia leads to tissue loss should be a major concern.

Methods: The months of March to June 2019 and 2020 were compared to each other at 4 Denver area hospitals. Reduction in overall ED visits and an increase in patient refusal for emergency transport were clear in the data collected. During this period in 2019, 49 MI and 90 stroke patients were admitted. In 2020 this was 40 and 90 respectively. All were matched for age and gender. For MI patients ejection fraction and door to EKG and intervention times were measured. For stroke patients last known well time, time to evaluation, and modified Rankin scores were measured.

Results: 254 (8.12%) patients refused emergency services transportation before the pandemic compared to 479 (18.35%) during the pandemic (p-value <0.001, chi square test). In the MI cohort, no significant difference was detected in measured ejection fraction (48% vs 49% p-value = 0.682). Additionally, no significant difference was detected between door to EKG time or door to MI intervention time. During the pandemic 8 (22%) expired with an MI prior to discharge, compared to 2 (4%) before the pandemic. The stroke cohort Door to Evaluation Time, Time since last well known, and modified Rankin scores were all found to have insignificant differences.

Discussion: ED volume was significantly lower during the early stages of the pandemic. During this time however only death from cardiac events increased, in spite of similar ejection fractions at discharge. The cause of this remains unclear as ejection fraction similarities make it less attributable to loss of tissue than to other factors. Patient behavior significantly changed during the pandemic, making this a likely source of the increase in mortality seen.

Keywords: COVID-19; Emergency service; Hospital; Myocardial infarction; Public health; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke*
  • Myocardial Infarction* / diagnosis
  • Myocardial Infarction* / epidemiology
  • Myocardial Infarction* / therapy
  • Pandemics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stroke* / diagnosis
  • Stroke* / epidemiology
  • Stroke* / therapy