(HealthDay News) — During the largest and most recent COVID-19 surge (October 2020 to January 2021), there were no significant declines in hospitalization for heart attacks or suspected strokes, according to a research letter published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Matthew D. Solomon, MD, PhD, from Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, and colleagues used data from a large, integrated health care delivery system for more than 4.5 million persons to identify weekly incidence rates for adult members hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) or suspected acute ischemic stroke (Jan. 22, 2019, to Jan. 18, 2021). Changes in care-seeking behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic were evaluated.

The researchers found that weekly AMI hospitalization rates declined up to 41% (P =.001 for week 11, 2020 versus 2019) during the spring COVID-19 surge but recovered to 2019 rates in weeks 16 to 19 (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.87; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.75 to 1.01; P = 0.07). A similar pattern was seen for stroke alerts during the spring surge (IRR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.65 to 0.79; P <.001) with recovery in weeks 16 to 19 (IRR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.78 to 1.02; P =.10). However, during the summer COVID-19 surge and during the winter surge, no significant declines in AMI were observed (IRR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.89 to 1.10; P =.65; and IRR, 0.94; 95 percent CI, 0.86 to 1.03; P = 0.20, respectively). For stroke, there was a statistically significant decline observed in the summer surge (IRR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.79 to 0.96; P =.006), but not during the winter surge (IRR, 1.08; 95% CI, 0.99 to 1.17; P =.07).

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“These patterns may reflect changing patient attitudes during the COVID-19 pandemic or the success of health system and public health campaigns to reassure patients about the safety of seeking emergency care when needed,” the authors write.

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