The COVID-19 lockdown has caused a major dent in the world economy. Apart from the economic cost, the pandemic lockdown has hit the health and lives of patients who either delayed or did not receive the emergency treatment they needed during the time.

A recent study that evaluated the impact of the lockdown in the U.K. and Spain found patients who had heart attacks during the period are likely to lose up to two years of their lives compared to their pre-COVID counterparts.

During the first wave of the pandemic, about 40% fewer heart attack patients went to hospitals for treatment, researchers said. This was either due to government restrictions, fear of catching the virus, or the stoppage of some of the routine emergency care facilities during the period.

"Restrictions to the treatment of life-threatening conditions have immediate and long-term negative consequences for individuals and society as a whole," study author William Wijns, of the Lambe Institute for Translational Medicine from Ireland, said in a news release.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart is severely restricted due to plaque buildup. Heart attack patients require emergency treatment. Stents are placed to open up the blocked artery in a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention or (PCI). However, when emergency care is not received during a heart attack, the heart muscles may be deprived of oxygen due to blockage, leading to complications such as heart failure and cardiac arrest.

In the latest study, researchers compared the predicted life expectancy of heart attack patients who had the incident during the first lockdown with those who had it during the same time in the previous year.

Heart attack patients who did not receive treatment and stayed at home during the lockdown were two times more likely to die compared to people who had the same condition before the lockdown, researchers said.

Similarly, those who delayed treatment were at twice the risk of developing serious complications when compared to people who had the condition before the lockdown.

"Back-up plans must be in place so that emergency services can be retained even during natural or health catastrophes," Wijns added.

The finding of the study was published in European Heart Journal – Quality of Care and Clinical Outcomes.

Patients who had heart attacks during the pandemic are likely to lose up to 2 years of their lives compared to their pre-COVID counterparts. Pixabay