Trend extends beyond borders
Dr. De Rosa and colleagues noted that their findings are in line with studies that reported similar declines for STEMI interventions in the United States and Spain during the pandemic (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.04.011doi: 10.24875/RECIC.M20000120).
Additionally, a group at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California also reported a 50% decline in the incidence of AMI hospitalizations during the pandemic (N Engl J Med. 2020 May 19. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2015630). Likewise, a study of aortic dissections in New York reported a sharp decline in procedures during the pandemic in the city, from 13 to 3 a month (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 May 15. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2020.05.022)
The researchers in Italy didn’t aim to determine the reasons for the decline in AMI hospitalizations, but Dr. De Rosa and colleagues speculated on the following explanations: Fear of contagion in response to media reports, concentration of resources to address COVID-19 may have engendered a sense to defer less urgent care among patients and health care systems, and a true reduction in acute cardiovascular disease because people under stay-at-home orders had low physical stress.
“The concern is fewer MIs most likely means people are dying at home or presenting later as this study suggests,” said Martha Gulati, MD, chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona, Phoenix, in interpreting the results of the Italian study.
That could be a result of a mixed message from the media about accessing health care during the pandemic. “What it suggests to a lot of us is that the media has transmitted this notion that hospitals are busy taking care of COVID-19 patients, but we never said don’t come to hospital if you’re having a heart attack,” Dr. Gulati said. “I think we created some sort of fear that patients if they didn’t have COVID-19 they didn’t want to bother physicians.”
Dr. Gulati, whose practice focuses on women with CVD, said the study’s findings that interventions in women dropped more precipitously than men were concerning. “We know already that women don’t do as well after a heart attack, compared to men, and now we see it worsen it even further when women aren’t presenting,” she said. “We’re worried that this is going to increase the gap.”
Dr. DeRosa and colleagues have no relevant financial relationships to disclose.
SOURCE: De Rosa S et al. Euro Heart J. 2020 May 15. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa409.