Global Impact of COVID-19 on Stroke Care and IV Thrombolysis

Objective

To measure the global impact of COVID-19 pandemic on volumes of IV thrombolysis (IVT), IVT transfers, and stroke hospitalizations over 4 months at the height of the pandemic (March 1 to June 30, 2020) compared with 2 control 4-month periods.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional, observational, retrospective study across 6 continents, 70 countries, and 457 stroke centers. Diagnoses were identified by their ICD-10 codes or classifications in stroke databases.

Results

There were 91,373 stroke admissions in the 4 months immediately before compared to 80,894 admissions during the pandemic months, representing an 11.5% (95% confidence interval [CI] –11.7 to –11.3, p < 0.0001) decline. There were 13,334 IVT therapies in the 4 months preceding compared to 11,570 procedures during the pandemic, representing a 13.2% (95% CI –13.8 to –12.7, p < 0.0001) drop. Interfacility IVT transfers decreased from 1,337 to 1,178, or an 11.9% decrease (95% CI –13.7 to –10.3, p = 0.001). Recovery of stroke hospitalization volume (9.5%, 95% CI 9.2–9.8, p < 0.0001) was noted over the 2 later (May, June) vs the 2 earlier (March, April) pandemic months. There was a 1.48% stroke rate across 119,967 COVID-19 hospitalizations. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection was noted in 3.3% (1,722/52,026) of all stroke admissions.

Conclusions

The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a global decline in the volume of stroke hospitalizations, IVT, and interfacility IVT transfers. Primary stroke centers and centers with higher COVID-19 inpatient volumes experienced steeper declines. Recovery of stroke hospitalization was noted in the later pandemic months.

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