Strokes caused by COVID-19 appear to be more disabling and deadly than those not associated with the infectious disease, a new study finds.
About one-third of COVID-19 patients develop neurological complications, and many arrive at hospitals with ischemic strokes (blocked blood flow to the brain), according to the researchers who studied cases in North America.
“There is an interaction that is still unknown between COVID respiratory disease and stroke, because the rate of poor outcomes or mortality is clearly greater than it would be in someone who had just an acute respiratory distress syndrome or COVID pneumonia, and also worse than someone who would have an equivalently large stroke in the pre-COVID era,” said study co-author Dr. Adam Dmytriw. He’s an interventional neuroradiology and endovascular neurosurgery fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston.
The findings also suggest that patients from less wealthy areas may have been at greater risk for serious COVID-19 complications such as stroke because they were less able to follow protective measures such as social distancing or working at home, Dmytriw said in a hospital news release.
For the study, the research team examined the medical records of 230 ischemic stroke patents seen at 30 stroke centers in the United States and Canada from mid-March through August 2020, the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
About half (51%) of the patients fared poorly, and 39% died either in the hospital or within 30 days after discharge, according to the study. The results were published online recently in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
In comparison, data from large clinical trials conducted before the pandemic found that the overall death rate for ischemic stroke patients was about 28%.
“This study is something of a post-mortem of how the hardest hit areas responded to the first wave of the pandemic,” Dmytriw noted.
“Some of the initial reports we had came out of hospitals in more affluent areas, such as central Manhattan, where people with lower socioeconomic status were less likely to present. Even though Mass General is one such hospital, our goal was to create a consortium including hospitals in outer boroughs of New York, outside of the greater Boston area, within and around Detroit, as well as diverse centers from coast to coast,” Dmytriw explained.
“This study revealed how great the mortality was from COVID-associated stroke during the first wave, how high the rates of disability were for many patients, and that these mortality rates and disabilities were greater than those experienced in the first wave in other countries,” he said.
The American Stroke Association has more on COVID-19.
SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, Feb. 7, 2022
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