Health System Reminds the Public: Don’t Let Fear of COVID-19 Prevent Stroke Treatment
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. During a stroke, blood stops flowing to an area of the brain when blood vessels get blocked or break open. Without blood flow, oxygen cannot reach the brain cells and those cells may die. If the blood flow is lost for more than several minutes, brain tissue around this area dies and that can lead to a loss of function in other areas of the body. Similar to a heart attack, a stroke can change a person’s life in a matter of minutes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Tower Health has recorded a significant decline in stroke patients presenting for potentially lifesaving care. Tower Health hospitals have seen a 50% decline in stroke patients during the month of April from the first quarter in 2020. This decline is worrisome because research shows individuals are still suffering stroke but may be delaying Emergency treatment because of COVID-19 concerns. Tower Health hospitals are following the CDC guidelines for treatment of stroke to keep patients safe and prevent spread of COVID-19.
“Immediate care is critical for treatment of stroke to limit damage to the brain and may even prevent death in some cases,” said Lisa Leschek-Gelman, MD, Chief, Section of Neurology at Reading Hospital – Tower Health. “Patients and their families have shared they have delayed treatment because they were concerned to come to the hospital for fear of contracting COVID-19. It is vital that your concerns related to COVID-19 do not delay your treatment for a stroke.”
Charles Barbera, MD, Tower Health Vice President of Pre-Hospital and Unscheduled Care said, “It is critical to call 9-1-1 when someone is exhibiting stroke symptoms. Our Emergency Department and Stroke teams work closely with our EMS partners in the community to optimize patient outcomes. When you call 9-1-1 your EMS provider alerts the hospital and the team assembles while the patient is en route. Upon patient arrival the physicians can immediately begin additional assessment and treatment.”
A stroke is a medical emergency. Use the letters in “BE FAST” to spot stroke signs and know when to call 9-1-1:
- Balance – Does the person have a sudden loss of balance?
- Eyes – Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?
- Face – Does the person’s face look uneven?
- Arms – Is one arm or leg hanging down or weak?
- Speech – Is the person’s speech slurred? Does the person have trouble speaking or seem confused?
- Time – Call 9-1-1 now!
Tower Health Neurologists are available to discuss stroke symptoms, treatment options available, and COVID-19 safety measures.