SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS, France — Fear of contracting COVID-19 may be costing even more lives. A survey conducted by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) shows that a large number of heart attack patients are avoiding hospitals despite needing life-saving treatment.
Over 3,000 healthcare professionals in 141 countries report a dramatic decline in people seeking help for heart trouble during the pandemic. The ESC believes the ongoing fear of being infected with COVID-19 is causing people to make a possibly fatal mistake by not getting urgent care.
“This is the strongest evidence yet of the collateral damage caused by the pandemic. Fear of catching the coronavirus means even people in the midst of a life-threatening heart attack are too afraid to go to hospital for life-saving treatment,” says ESC President Professor Barbara Casadei in a statement.
‘Unnecessary Loss Of Life’
Casadei adds there hasn’t been enough done to inform the public about how hospitals are keeping non-COVID-19 patients safe. Survey respondents say that the number of heart attack patients entering their hospitals has dropped by more than 50 percent on average.
Nearly 80 percent of the survey notes they were seeing less patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarctions (STEMIs); the most severe type of heart attack.
“Cardiac death is largely preventable if patients with a heart attack come to hospital in time to get treatment. What we are witnessing is an unnecessary loss of life,” Casadei explained.
‘Every Minute Counts’ For Heart Attack Symptoms
Another survey of over 600 interventional cardiologists finds that COVID-19 worries are also slowing down the life-or-death decisions being made during a heart attack. The poll released by the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions (EAPCI) says half of heart attack cases are getting blood flow restored too late.
Cardiologists warn delays in treatment can lead to premature death or disability.
“Patients who do not present promptly are in a far worse condition when they finally arrive at hospital and they are often too late to benefit from the life-saving treatment that we can provide,” Professor Dariusz Dudek of EAPCI said.
“Don’t delay if you have heart attack symptoms: call emergency. Every minute counts.”
Much Deadlier Than COVID-19
Professor Casadei says the mortality rate of COVID-19 is 10 times lower than an untreated heart attack. Heart attack symptoms can include chest pains, pain in the throat, neck, back, stomach, or shoulders that lasts for more than 15 minutes. The ESC president urges anyone experiencing these symptoms to call an ambulance immediately.
The surveys were conducted in mid-April, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.