Doctors worry coronavirus is keeping patients with heart attack symptoms away from hospitals

Posted at 10:11 AM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 10:13:37-04

CLEVELAND — Throughout the pandemic the message from health officials has been clear: stay home. But doctors at both the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals are urging any patients with serious heart-related symptoms, to seek help.

“It’s a public health crisis, in my opinion,” said Dr. Medhi Shishehbor.

Dr. Shishehbor is the director of the Interventional Cardiovascular Center for University Hospitals.

“We believe that because of fear or concern about coming to emergency rooms or going to hospitals to be evaluated, patients are not coming when they’re having a heart attack or symptoms that are similar to a heart attack,” he said.

Often times, patients that believe they have mild COVID-19 symptoms, are told to stay home and quarantine from doctors.

But some COVID-19 symptoms are similar to heart attack symptoms.

“If you are having symptoms that feel like chest pain, that feel like having shortness of breath, coughing, not able to lay down in bed and you get out of breath, all of these symptoms could be from your heart and not just from viral infection,” said Dr. Samir Kapadia the chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine.

Both hospital systems have reported a decline in patient’s coming in with heart attacks and strokes and the amount of heart-related procedures being done since the pandemic.

University Hospitals has temporarily suspended the operations for free-standing emergency departments in Avon, Amherst, Broadview Heights, Kent and Twinsburg.

Dr. Shishehbor said if you have any symptoms, call your doctor or do a virtual appointment.

He said delaying getting help if you’re having a mild heart attack, can lead to life-threatening health issues down the line.

“Not treating heart attacks could lead to significant chronic changes in the muscle of the heart weakening, which can then lead to symptoms of heart failure, shortness of breath over time and weakening of the heart pump,” he said.

If you have to come in because you are having a heart attack, it’s much safer than if you stayed at home.

“All the precautions that everybody is taking is working,” said Dr. Kapadia. “If you need something done for your heart, it is safe to come to any of the hospitals and have the procedures.”