COVID-19 Infection May Lead to More Severe Strokes

Younger participants in the study had a higher percentage of stokes than seen in the general population.

A recent study conducted by investigators from a multinational study group led by Geisinger Health System has discovered that among those who are infected with COVID-19 and have strokes, there is a higher incidence for severe strokes in younger people.

Results from the study were published in the journal Stroke.

"Our observation of a higher median stroke severity in countries with lower healthcare spending may reflect a lower capacity for the diagnosis of mild stroke in patients during the pandemic,” Ramin Zand, a vascular neurologist and clinician-scientist at Geisinger and leader of the study group said. “But this may also indicate that patients with mild stroke symptoms refused to present to the hospitals.”

Shortly after the pandemic began, a group from Geisinger formed the COVID-19 Stroke Study Group to study the correlation between the disease and stroke risk.

For the study, the team of investigators analyzed data of 432 patients from 17 countries who were diagnosed with both a COVID-19 infection and stroke.

Findings from the study showed that a significantly higher incidence of large vessel occlusion (LVO) was seen in the participants. In the general population, around 24% to 38% of ischemic strokes are LVOs, but in the group it was 45%.

Younger patients in the study group also had a higher percentage of strokes, with more than a third being younger than 55 years of age and almost half being younger than 65.

Additionally, the study also found that less-severe strokes were underdiagnosed in critically ill patients or in healthcare centers that were overwhelmed due to the burden of the pandemic.

"Our initial data showed that the overall incidence of stroke was low among patients with COVID-19, and while that hasn't changed, this new data shows that there are certain groups of patients -- for example, younger patients -- who are more affected," Vida Abedi, a scientist in the department of molecular and functional genomics at Geisinger said. "We hope these findings highlight new research directions to better identify patients at risk and help improve the quality of care."