Newswise — ALBANY, N.Y. (April 15, 2021) – A recent study out of the University at Albany found that the number of patients who pursued treatment for a severe form of heart attack dropped significantly in New York State during the pandemic.

ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is a severe heart attack that occurs when a major artery to the heart is blocked due to plaque build-up. This form of heart attack is often treated with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a procedure in which a catheter is threaded through the blood vessels to open the coronary artery and place a stent there, compressing the plaque and increasing blood flow.

Distinguished Professor Edward Hannan, along with Cardiac Services Program Project Director Kimberly Cozzens and other colleagues, investigated the fluctuation in the number of patients who underwent PCI for STEMI before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York. They discovered that the number of patients who pursued STEMI PCIs dropped by approximately a quarter in the state during the pandemic.

The researchers gathered data from 7,047 patients who received care at one of 51 New York hospitals. Those who received care for STEMI from Jan. 1, 2019, to March 14, 2020, were considered patients during the pre-COVID period, and those who received care for STEMI from March 15 to April 25, 2020, were considered patients during the COVID period.    

Of note, the decrease in STEMI PCIs during the pandemic was primarily limited to counties with a high concentration of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Hannan explained that “the decrease appears to be primarily related to patients not presenting to hospitals in high-density COVID regions, rather than PCI being avoided in STEMI patients or a reduction in the incidence of STEMI.”

The authors said this information can serve to focus public health efforts on convincing STEMI patients to seek life-saving hospital care during the pandemic.