Lifespan hospitals see 30% drop in heart attack, stroke patients during pandemic


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — On Friday, Gov. Gina Raimondo issued a reminder to Rhode Islanders: “If you’re sick and need urgent care, go to the hospital.”

As COVID-19 remains a primary health concern for many people right now, Lifespan doctors say they are seeing a significant decline in the number of heart attack and stroke patients at local hospitals.

“We don’t know if people are just maybe exerting themselves less and doing less strenuous things, and therefore less likely to have a heart attack,” said Dr. Herb Aronow, director of Interventional Cardiology at Lifespan’s Cardiovascular Institute. “Or, maybe because people aren’t driving as much and there’s less air pollution.”

Dr. Aronow said one thing they know for certain is that fear of visiting the hospital during the pandemic is a contributing factor in the decline.

Dr. Ryan McTaggart, the director of Interventional Neuroradiology at Rhode Island Hospital, said no one should be afraid to come to the hospital.

“We are well prepared to manage any condition,” he said.

Both Dr. McTaggart and Dr. Aronow say most people will likely recover from COVID-19, but many people aren’t as likely to recover from a heart attack or stroke if they don’t seek emergency care in a timely manner. 

According to Dr. Aronow, the number of heart attack patients at Lifespan facilities is currently down 30 percent. 

“We have a saying in cardiology that time is muscle,” he added. “The longer you wait, the more damage you may have, and that damage is permanent.”

Additionally, Dr. McTaggart said the number of calls for stroke is down 30 percent, but he said the number of patients presenting with severe strokes has remained steady since the coronavirus outbreak began.

“When you wait to make the call, those minutes add up to weeks and months of disability,” Dr. McTaggart explained.

Both doctors stressed that if you feel something is wrong, make sure you seek help. 

BEFAST: Know the signs of a stroke » | Warning signs of a heart attack »

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