Impact of SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic on "Stroke Code" Imaging Utilization and Yield.

Publication Date


Journal Title

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Indirect consequences of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic include those related to failure of patients to seek or receive timely medical attention for seemingly unrelated disease. We report our experience with stroke code imaging during the early pandemic months of 2020. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Retrospective review of stroke codes during the 2020 pandemic and both 2020 and matched 2019 prepandemic months was performed. Patient variables were age, sex, hospital location, and severity of symptoms based on the NIHSS. We reviewed the results of CT of the head, CTA, CTP, and MR imaging examinations and classified a case as imaging-positive if any of the imaging studies yielded a result that related to the clinical indication for the study. Both year-to-year and sequential comparisons were performed between pandemic and prepandemic months. RESULTS: A statistically significant decrease was observed in monthly stroke code volumes accompanied by a statistically significant increased proportion of positive imaging findings during the pandemic compared with the same months in the prior year (P < .001) and prepandemic months in the same year (P < .001). We also observed statistically significant increases in average NIHSS scores (P = .045 and P = .03) and the proportion of inpatient stroke codes (P = .003 and P = .03). CONCLUSIONS: During our pandemic period, there was a significantly decreased number of stroke codes but simultaneous increases in positivity rates, symptom severity, and inpatient codes. We postulate that this finding reflects the documented reluctance of patients to seek medical care during the pandemic, with the shift toward a greater proportion of inpatient stroke codes potentially reflecting the neurologic complications of the virus itself.

Document Type



Faculty; Northwell Researcher


School of Medicine; Northwell Health

Primary Department


Additional Departments

Otolaryngology; COVID-19 Publications





For the public and Northwell Health campuses