‘Collateral damage of Covid’: Fewer South Carolinians going to the hospital for heart attacks, strokes

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MYRTLE BEACH, CHARLESTON, SC (WBTW) – Doctors across the globe and in South Carolina are treating less stroke and heart attack patients in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Doctors at Grand Strand Medical Center treated less than half the normal number of patients this month for emergent heart attacks and admitted 13% less stroke patients in March of 2020 than March of 2019.

MUSC reports a 50% decrease in the number of acute stroke calls to it’s Telestroke Program and less patients showing up to the hospital in person.

Most doctors attribute this trend to fear of Coronavirus exposure at hospitals.

“Overall throughout the state, we’re seeing a 35-50 percent reduction in patients who are presenting with acute stroke symptoms,” Doctor Christine Holmstedt, neurology professor and medical director of the MUSC Health Comprehensive Stroke and Teleneuroscience Programs said. “The fear is that patients aren’t presenting because they are scared they are going to be exposed to Covid.”

She tells News13, this trend isn’t just a South Carolina problem; it’s happening across the world.

“We’ve seen it all over the world starting in Asia, through Europe, all around the United States and throughout South Carolina as well,” Dr. Holmstedt explained.

She says, in recent articles and medical journals she has read, doctors have recounted recent experience with patients reluctant to go to the hospital.

“Patients have said, I’d rather be dead from my heart attack or my stroke than come to the hospital,” Dr. Holmstedt explained.

She says the trend is concerning because of how time-sensitive these health issues are. Explaining, doctors only have four and a half hours to intervene with a stroke patient.

“Patients need to be treated as soon as possible to reduce damage to the heart or the brain, to reduce long term disability and certainly to reduce death,” Dr. Holmstedt said.

She says it’s important for people to know hospitals are safe and precautions are being taken to ensure doctors are ready and protected when patients need them.

Explaining, at MUSC, doctors and nurses have access to ample personal protection equipment, they are reducing their exposure by limiting patient contact and the number of times they go into a room and are screening everyone before they enter the hospital.

“Patients are being screened outside. So they are not even making it to the door before they are getting screened for a fever and then the screening Covid questions,” Dr. Holmstedt said. “If any of those screenings or temperature alerts, they are brought to a separate area of the hospital or emergency department.”

The most common stroke symptoms and latest information on this trend can be found here

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