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This article is the authors' final version prior to publication in Telemedicine and e-Health, Volume 27, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 227-230

Final publication is available from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers


Background and Purpose: As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to be a global pandemic, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that incidence of diseases that require emergent care, particularly myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke, has declined rapidly. The objective of this study is to quantify our experience of telestroke (TS) consults at a large tertiary comprehensive stroke center during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed TS consults of patients presenting to our neuroscience network. Those with a confirmed diagnosis of acute ischemic stroke or transient ischemia attack were included. Data were compared from April 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, which include consults prepandemic and during the crisis.

Results: A total of 1,982 TS consults were provided in 1 year. Prepandemic, the mean monthly consults were 148. In April 2020, only 59 patients were seen (49% decline). Mobile stroke unit consults decreased by 72% in the same month. The 30-day moving average of patients seen per day was between five and six prepandemic declined to between two and three in April, and then began to uptrend during May. The mean percentage of patients receiving intravenous tissue plasminogen activator was 16% from April 2019 to March 2020 and increased to 31% in April 2020. The mean percentage of patients receiving endovascular therapy was 10% from April 2019 to March 2020 and increased to 19% in April 2020.

Conclusions: At our large tertiary comprehensive stroke center, we observed a significant and rapid decline in TS consults during the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot be certain of the reasons for the decline, but a fear of contracting coronavirus, social distancing, and isolation likely played a major role. Further research must be done to elucidate the etiology of this decline.

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