BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
The purpose of the study is to analyze how the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic affected acute stroke care in a Comprehensive Stroke Center.
On February 28, 2020, contingency plans were implemented at Hospital Clinic of Barcelona to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them, the decision to refrain from reallocating the Stroke Team and Stroke Unit to the care of patients with COVID-19. From March 1 to March 31, 2020, we measured the number of emergency calls to the Emergency Medical System in Catalonia (7.5 million inhabitants), and the Stroke Codes dispatched to Hospital Clinic of Barcelona. We recorded all stroke admissions, and the adequacy of acute care measures, including the number of thrombectomies, workflow metrics, angiographic results, and clinical outcomes. Data were compared with March 2019 using parametric or nonparametric methods as appropriate.
At Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, 1232 patients with COVID-19 were admitted in March 2020, demanding 60% of the hospital bed capacity. Relative to March 2019, the Emergency Medical System had a 330% mean increment in the number of calls (158 005 versus 679 569), but fewer Stroke Code activations (517 versus 426). Stroke admissions (108 versus 83) and the number of thrombectomies (21 versus 16) declined at Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, particularly after lockdown of the population. Younger age was found in stroke admissions during the pandemic (median [interquartile range] 69 [64-73] versus 75 [73-80] years, P=0.009). In-hospital, there were no differences in workflow metrics, angiographic results, complications, or outcomes at discharge.
The COVID-19 pandemic reduced by a quarter the stroke admissions and thrombectomies performed at a Comprehensive Stroke Center but did not affect the quality of care metrics. During the lockdown, there was an overload of emergency calls but fewer Stroke Code activations, particularly in elderly patients. Hospital contingency plans, patient transport systems, and population-targeted alerts must act concertedly to better protect the chain of stroke care in times of pandemic.