HealthDay News — During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a decrease in cardiac-related calls to emergency medical services (EMS) and a corresponding increase in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, according to a report published online May 26 in Health Affairs.

Christopher Sun, Ph.D., from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and colleagues used EMS call data to describe the correlation between patients’ reluctance to call EMS for cardiac-related care and excess out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence and related outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes were examined during the initial COVID-19 wave (March 15 to June 8, 2020) and two months after the initial wave ended (June 9 to Aug. 31, 2020).

The researchers found that compared with historical baselines, there was a decrease in cardiac-related EMS calls during the initial COVID-19 wave (−27.2 percent), while increases were seen in calls with hospital transportation refusal and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence (+32.5 and +35.5 percent, respectively). After the initial wave, despite fewer COVID-19 infections and relaxed public health advisories, cardiac-related calls remained lower (−17.2 percent) and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence remained elevated (+24.8 percent). Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest incidence was significantly associated with a reduction in cardiac-related calls, but not with infection rates of COVID-19 throughout Boston’s 14 neighborhoods.


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“The sustained changes in patients’ care-seeking behaviors and excess out-of-hospital cardiac arrest deaths after the initial COVID-19 wave may foreshadow the harmful long-term indirect effects of COVID-19 on health care systems,” the authors write.

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