Hartford Hospital Study: Alarming Drop in Cardiac Emergency Patients During COVID-19

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A Hartford HealthCare (HHC) cardiology research team pinpointed a 38 percent drop in the number of people coming into the hospital with cardiac emergencies since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amanda Zaleski, PhD, an exercise physiologist in preventive cardiology at the Heart & Vascular Institute at Hartford Hospital, said the results of the study, “Declines in Acute Cardiovascular Emergencies during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” were recently published in the American Journal of Cardiology, making it the first published research from the system relating to COVID-19.

The findings of the team – which also included Beth Taylor, PhD, and Drs. Paul Thompson and Raymond McKay – echoed observations from healthcare leaders nationwide about a decline in patients coming into hospital emergency departments for cardiac and other acute care needs.

“We are the second (research team) to confirm this in a peer-reviewed journal,” Zaleski noted June 2 in HHC’s daily media briefing.

Comparing cardiac catheterization interventions, a test often needed soon after a cardiac patient arrives in an emergency department, from March and April against the same months in the last four years, she said the team calculated a 50 percent drop in traffic in April and a 35 percent drop in March.

“Our job is to tell the story of the data,” she said.

Since the onset of the pandemic, people have been fearful and reluctant to come into emergency departments even when they are in pain. Instead,  Zaleski said, they suffer at home.

“A large majority of people are at home, delaying care,” she said. “The longer they delay care, the worse their outcomes.”

This reaction to COVID-19 is contrary to what typically happens in large-scale emergencies, she said.

“Usually these events cause an uptick (in patient flow), so where have all these patients gone?” she said, noting that the numbers don’t mean people aren’t in need of care.

Noting this is CPR Awareness Week, Zaleski urged people to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. These include crushing pain in the chest that can radiate to the arm and back. In women, the signs can include gastrointestinal distress. She also suggested people learn how to help, and referred to the “Be a Lifesaver” video here.

For information about Hartford HealthCare’s Heart & Vascular Institute, click here.

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