In separate statements, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and American College of Cardiology (ACC) are calling for patients to still seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms of a myocardial infarction despite any fears they may have over contracting COVID-19 at hospital. Both appeals come after reports of reduced admissions for myocardial infarctions, in both Europe and the USA, during the current pandemic.
A ESC press release explains that, during the pandemic, many people with myocardial infarction symptoms are delaying or avoiding going to hospital for fear of contracting COVID-19. However, ESC president Barbara Casadei comments: “Hospitals must have designated areas for heart attack patients to prevent spreading of coronavirus infection.” She adds the general advice to “stay at home” and to not come to hospital do not apply to patients who have myocardial infarction symptoms. “There are specific, lifesaving and evidence-based treatments for heart attacks but they need to be administered quickly to be most effective. Delaying puts your life at risk, increases the damage to your heart and the risk of developing heart failure,” Casadei explains. For patients who have symptoms of COVID-19 as well as a myocardial infarction, she advises: “If you have symptoms of COVID-19 such as a high temperature or new persistent cough, tell the emergency services in advance. But get to a hospital quickly.”
In its statement, the ACC reports that—through its CardioSmart patient initiative—it has issued guidance to encourage patients experiencing a heart attack or stroke to call 911. Again, this is over fears that patients who need urgent treatment are putting off going to hospital because of concerns about contracting COVID-19. Martha Gulati, editor-in-chief of CardioSmart.org, comments: “Hospitals and catheterisation labs are still treating heart attack and stroke, not just COVID-19, and are taking the utmost precautions to ensure that the novel coronavirus not be spread. The faster a patient is treated, the higher the outcome of survival and lower the risk for complications. No patient should delay their care.”
Furthermore, a new CardioSmart infographic, “Coronavirus and Your Heart: Don’t Ignore Heart Symptoms,” encourages patients to pay close attention to myocardial infarction or stroke symptoms, particularly if they have a pre-existing heart condition, and call 911 immediately if they believe they are having a myocardial infarction or stroke. The infographic details common heart attack and stroke symptoms and ensures hospitals are taking steps to protect them from COVID-19.
“We encourage clinicians to widely distribute these tools to their patients. Make sure that patients know when telehealth is an appropriate option, and when they should call 911 instead. Clinicians should work with patients to ensure medication adherence, and always continue to advocate for heart-healthy measures that can be taken even in times of self-isolation and social distancing,” Gulati comments.