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Stroke cases drop during coronavirus surge, study shows

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Many people have put off medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic, including canceling appointments and delaying surgeries.

Doctors are also seeing a drop in some medical emergencies, according to Cleveland Clinic neurologist Ken Uchino, M.D.

“Many people around the country noticed, other stroke neurologists, as well, the number of people coming in with stroke were declining,” Uchino said.

Uchino published a study, which found stroke cases dropped 30% during a recent coronavirus surge. His team studied data from 19 emergency departments in Northeast Ohio, comparing stroke cases before and during the surge. It’s not clear if the number of strokes actually went down or if patients were not seeking medical treatment.

Uchino stresses that minutes matter when it comes to treating a stroke.

“The earlier the blood flow is restored, the smaller the effects of the stroke,” he said. “So, early treatment is important, and that’s why we encourage, even with perhaps minor symptoms that may worsen, to arrive at the emergency department as soon as possible.”

It’s important to call 911 if you believe you are having a stroke. Common symptoms include sudden weakness on one side of your body, changes in speech or vision and difficulty with balance or walking.

The complete results from this study can be found in the journal, Stroke.