According to a study published in the journal Stroke, the patients who are hospitalised with COVID-19 have lower risks of suffering a stroke. The majority of afflicted and hospitalised COVID-19 patients have risk factors that include high blood pressure and diabetes.
Brett Cucchiara, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, USA said,” While there was an initial concern for a high number of strokes related to COVID-19, that has not been born out, importantly. In contrast, 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. It’s necessary to follow through with regular diagnostic testing”.
Data from 844 COVID-19 patients who were admitted to the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and Pennsylvania Hospital between March and May was analysed by the researcher to evaluate the incidence and risk of stroke in the hospitalised patients. Additionally, the team of researchers also studied the chances of intracranial haemorrhage in the patients.
According to the researchers, 2.4 per cent of the COVID-19 hospitalised patients suffered an ischemic stroke, which is reportedly the most common type of stroke, caused by a clot in the brain. However, about 95 per cent of the stroke patients had high blood pressure, and over 60 per cent of them had a history of diabetes as existing risk factors. Majority of the patients were reported to suffer traditional stroke mechanisms, and about one- third had previously suffered a stroke.
In comparison to the previously reported studies, the population of patients considered for this study had a more diverse cohort. About 68 per cent of the population comprised of black patients, and 80 per cent of the hospitalised patients who suffered a stroke were reportedly black. “This aligns with the data we see on the racial disparities of the virus across our country. We worry that this could further indicate the higher risks associated with COVID-19 in black populations, much more so than white. So far we don’t understand the disproportionate effect we are seeing, but the disparities in infection rates and outcomes are incredibly important to figure out and address”, stated Brett Cucchiara.
Surprisingly, as found in the research, about 0.9 per cent of the hospitalised patients suffered an intracranial haemorrhage. But, the rate of intracranial haemorrhage is higher than what was expected, contrary to the fact that the rate of stroke in COVID-19 patients was comparable as found in studies conducted in Italy and Wuhan, China. The increased use of blood thinners or anticoagulant therapy has a role to play, said the authors of the study.
There has been a duration of 21 days on an average between the initial COVID-19 symptoms to the diagnosis of ischemic stroke, as found by the authors. Furthermore, the authors find this consistent with the rise in the hypercoagulable state, which evolves during the initial stages of the disease.
Reportedly, the mean age of patients who suffered an ischemic stroke was 64 years and 59 being the average age of the cohort of patients. This study has contradicted the early reports that stated there are significantly higher risks of stroke in the hospitalised COVID-19 patients.