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Risk of Stroke Higher Than Expected in COVID-19 Patients

8% of ischemic stroke patients had atrial fibrillation, while 9% of those without stroke also had atrial fibrillation.

Recent research has found that patients who are hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection are at a much higher risk of stroke in comparison to patients who were infected with other similar conditions, including influenza and sepsis.

The data was presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2021 and was conducted by investigators at the American Heart Association (AHA).

"Stroke on its own can have devastating consequences and recovering from COVID-19 is often a difficult path for those who survive,” Saate S. Shakil, a cardiology fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle said. “Together, they can exact a significant toll on patients who have had both conditions."

The investigators behind the study accessed the AHA database of COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease in order to investigate the risk of stroke among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, their demographic characteristics, medical histories and in-hospital survival. The study included data from 20,000 patients across the US who were hospitalized between January and November of 2020.

Findings from the study showed that out of the 20,000 patients, 281 people in the COVID-19 registry had a confirmed stroke, with 148 experiencing an ischemic stroke, 7 experiencing a transient ischemic attack, and 127 a bleeding stroke or an unspecified type of stroke.

Additionally, Those with any type of stroke were more likely to be male (64%) and of an older age than those who did not experience a stroke. 44% of patients who had an ischemic stroke also had Type 2 diabetes and most of them also had high blood pressure.

The investigators also found that those who had a stroke spent more days in the hospital and had an increased risk of death compared to those who did not have one.

"These findings suggest that COVID-19 may increase the risk for stroke, though the exact mechanism for this is still unknown," Shakil said. "As the pandemic continues, we are finding that coronavirus is not just a respiratory illness, but a vascular disease that can affect many organ systems."