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Telestroke in the Time of COVID-19: The Mayo Clinic Experience

      Abstract

      On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic, and in the weeks following, public health organizations, medical associations, and governing bodies throughout the world recommended limiting contact with others to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19. Although both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes have been reported with COVID-19, there has been anecdotal suggestion of an overall decrease in stroke admissions. To date, the effects of any pandemic on telestroke service lines have not been described. The purpose of this cross-sectional analysis of telestroke activations in the 30 days before and after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic is to describe the difference in case volumes of telestroke activations, the characteristics of patients, and treatment recommendations between the 2 time frames. We found a 50.0% reduction in total telestroke activations between the predeclaration group (142 patients) and the postdeclaration group (71 patients). There were no statistically significant differences in age (P=.95), sex (P=.10), diagnosis (P=.26), or regional variations (P=.08) in activation volumes. The percentage of patients for whom we recommended urgent stroke treatment with intravenous alteplase, mechanical thrombectomy, or both decreased from 44.4% (28 of 63) to 33.3% (11 of 33). The reasons for the sunstantial decrease in telestroke activations and urgent stroke treatment recommendations are likely multifactorial but nevertheless underscore the importance of continued public health measures to encourage patients and families to seek emergency medical care at the time of symptom onset.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), ED (emergency department), IV-tPA (intravenous tissue plasminogen activator), NIHSS (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale), WHO (World Health Organization)
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