Dramatic decline in heart attack presentations to hospitals

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   30th Apr 2020

Heart disease has not gone away but new survey shows dramatic decline in people seeking help

The number of people attending hospital suffering from heart attacks has dramatically declined in recent weeks with some heart specialists reporting a decrease of up to 80 per cent, according to a new survey.

The informal survey of members of the Irish Cardiac Society (ICS), sought the views of cardiologists across the country on whether they had perceived a change in the number of people presenting with symptoms of heart conditions in their hospital. Heart specialists in approximately 66 per cent of public hospitals responded to the survey, which was carried out between April 10th and 22nd 2020.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Jim Crowley, President of the ICS, said “We have seen across the island of Ireland that people are choosing not to seek help or attend hospital when they experience cardiac symptoms”.

“This is very worrying as we know cardiovascular disease has not gone away and the prospect of a surge of patients with advanced cardiac symptoms in the coming weeks and months as an indirect consequence of COVID-19 is concerning”.

“Ireland is fortunate to have highly skilled and dedicated cardiologists and cardiac teams ready to deal with any cardiac emergency and continue to care and support those living with a cardiac condition,” said Professor Crowley.

“We have seen across the island of Ireland that people are choosing not to seek help or attend hospital when they experience cardiac symptoms”.

Professor Jim Crowley, President, Irish Cardiac Society

According to the results, 65.8 per cent of respondents reported that the number of presentations for heart attack at their hospital had decreased while the vast majority or 92 per cent said that the number of presentations for unstable angina had reduced.

Some respondents (9.1 per cent) reported that the number of presentations for heart attack had reduced by up to 80 per cent, while a small number (2.6 per cent) reported that presentations for unstable angina had reduced by more than 80 per cent.

Overall the perceived percentage reduction in presentations ranged from less than 20 per cent to more than 80 per cent.

Asked why they believed the number of presentations had reduced, the majority of heart specialists reported that they felt it was due people being afraid of contracting COVID-19 in hospital, while patients not wanting to burden the health service or not being allowed to leave their homes were other reasons given for the perceived decline.

"In some cases patients are presenting too late for life saving treatment,"

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director , The Irish Heart Foundation

Prof Crowley added, “While I fully understand why people are afraid to leave home and avoid hospitals, ignoring cardiac symptoms and delaying treatment carries the risk of severe complications with potentially long term negative consequences and even increased mortality”.

“I have been very impressed by the efforts of my colleagues around the country to adapt to the challenges presented by COVID-19. Cardiology departments remain open and available to provide life-saving treatments and ongoing care, and I urge anyone with cardiac symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath to seek medical help and attend hospital if necessary.”

Commenting Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation said, “The ICS survey confirms what we are hearing from colleagues that there has been a significant decrease in the number of patients attending hospital with heart attacks. Unfortunately, we are also hearing that because patients are worried about COVID-19 they are waiting until they are very ill before attending the Emergency Department. In some cases patients are presenting too late for life saving treatment. We therefore urge anyone who thinks they might be having a heart attack or stroke to call 999 or 112 and seek urgent medical care.”

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or support@irishheart.ie.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here: www.facebook.com/groups/heartsupportnetwork/

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see https://irishheart.ie/get-support/.

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angina coronavirus Covid-19 Dont ignore the signs emergency heart attack heart disease Irish Cardiac Society

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