While initial reports suggested a major risk of stroke in coronavirus positive patients, a new study shows a low risk of stroke in patients hospitalised with the COVID-19 disease. Notably, the majority of afflicted patients had existing risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
These findings provide more clarity about the role the coronavirus plays in causing stroke in a diverse population of the US. The study has been published in the journal Stroke from Penn Medicine.
“While there was an initial concern for a high number of strokes related to COVID-19, that has not been borne out. Importantly, while the risk for stroke in COVID-19 patients is low, it’s mostly tied to pre-existing conditions — so physicians who do see stroke in hospitalised COVID-19 patients must understand the virus is not the only factor and it’s necessary to follow through with normal diagnostic testing,” said Brett Cucchiara, MD, an associate professor of Neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and senior author of the paper.
“However, there are still many unknowns and we need to continue investigating the linkage between stroke and COVID-19, particularly considering the racial disparities surrounding the disease,” added Cucchiara.
Researchers say the results suggest that these cerebrovascular events in hospitalised COVID-19 patients are likely tied to existing conditions and not the sole consequence of the virus. However, other factors could be at play and require continued research.
Researchers found that 2.4 per cent of patients hospitalised for COVID-19 had an ischemic stroke — the most common type of stroke, typically caused by a blood clot in the brain. Importantly, the majority of these stroke patients had existing risk factors, such as high blood pressure (95 per cent) and a history of diabetes (60 per cent) and traditional stroke mechanisms, such as heart failure. Additionally, over one-third had a history of a previous stroke.