BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused an unprecedented change in the apparent epidemiology of acute coronary syndromes (ACS). However, the interplay between this disease, changes in pollution, climate, and aversion to activation of emergency medical services represents a challenging conundrum. We aimed at appraising the impact of COVID-19, weather, and environment features on the occurrence of ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) and non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) in a large Italian region and metropolitan area.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Italy was hit early on by COVID-19, such that state of emergency was declared on January 31, 2020, and national lockdown implemented on March 9, 2020, mainly because the accrual of cases in Northern Italy. In order to appraise the independent contribution on changes in STEMI and NSTEMI daily rates of COVID-19, climate and pollution, we collected data on these clinical events from tertiary care cardiovascular centers in the Lazio region and Rome metropolitan area. Multilevel Poisson modeling was used to appraise unadjusted and adjusted effect estimates for the daily incidence of STEMI and NSTEMI cases. The sample included 1448 STEMI and 2040 NSTEMI, with a total of 2882 PCI spanning 6 months. Significant reductions in STEMI and NSTEMI were evident already in early February 2020 (all p<0.05), concomitantly with COVID-19 spread and institution of national countermeasures. Changes in STEMI and NSTEMI were inversely associated with daily COVID-19 tests, cases, and/or death (p<0.05). In addition, STEMI and NSTEMI incidences were associated with daily NO2, PM10, and O3 concentrations, as well as temperature (p<0.05). Multi-stage and multiply adjusted models highlighted that reductions in STEMI were significantly associated with COVID-19 data (p<0.001), whereas changes in NSTEMI were significantly associated with both NO2 and COVID-19 data (both p<0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Reductions in STEMI and NSTEMI in the COVID-19 pandemic may depend on different concomitant epidemiologic and pathophysiologic mechanisms. In particular, recent changes in STEMI may depend on COVID-19 scare, leading to excess all-cause mortality, or effective reduced incidence, whereas reductions in NSTEMI may also be due to beneficial reductions in NO2 emissions in the lockdown phase.