I’m one of the overnight teleradiologists for Advanced Radiology-Baltimore. On any given night, our radiology practice supervises the performance and interpretation of imaging studies on about 25% of the patients presenting to an emergency room in the entire state of Maryland. I’m responsible for reading CT scans of stroke patients, evaluating patients for pulmonary emboli, detecting the cause of acute abdominal pain from threatened sepsis from appendicitis, diverticulitis and bowel obstruction, detecting pulmonary edema in patients suffering possible heart attacks, and the like.
It is a clear as day that patients are avoiding coming to our local emergency rooms for non-COVID emergencies (“Maryland doctors sound the alarm after seeing drop in heart attacks and strokes amid coronavirus pandemic,” April 20). People are suffering heart attacks and strokes at home and are not arriving fast enough for evaluation. The number of studies I review for non-COVID emergencies has dropped precipitously. I am sure that complications of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicidal ideation and other psychiatric disorders are also undoubtedly taking a toll on our community.
Now, this might be a reflection of better physician triage at our local hospitals. But, as the recent opinion pieces and reports from the New England Journal of Medicine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News World and Report attest, this is not unique to the mid-Atlantic region.
People with symptoms of a heart attack or stroke must call 911 and go to the hospital. We should encourage and remind members of our community with our frequent updates from our politicians and governor, our local newspapers, radio and television stations that acute symptoms of stroke and heart attack are not to be ignored. Patients with persistent severe abdominal pain, especially if they have fever as a sign of sepsis or peritonitis, should go to the hospital. Our hospitals are prepared to treat these patients in safe environments.
It would be ironically tragic if we lost more members of our community from non-COVID disease during the pandemic then from the virus.
Dr. Moshe L. Gavant, Baltimore
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