Coronavirus patients are eight times more likely to have a stroke than flu patients, research shows
- Of the more than 1,900 patients in the ER or in the hospital with coronavirus, 1.6% had an ischemic stroke
- A third of the COVID-19 stroke patients were severe cases receiving mechanical ventilation
- About 32% of coronavirus stroke patients died, compared to 14% of those who did not have a stroke
- Only 0.2% of flu patients had an ischemic stroke, putting coronavirus patients at eight times the risk of stroke
Coronavirus patients are more likely to have a stroke than flu patients, a new study suggests.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City found that 1.6 percent of those with the virus-caused disease COVID-19 had a stroke.
For comparison, only 0.2 percent of influenza patients had a stroke caused by a blockage in the brain, making their risk of the medical condition eight times less than that of coronavirus.
None of the flu patients with stroke died, but nine of the coronavirus patients did.
Of the more than 1,900 patients in the ER or in the hospital with coronavirus, 1.6% had an ischemic stroke compared to 0.2% of the flu patients. Pictured: Lt. Natasha McClinton, an OR nurse, prepares a patient for an ICU procedure aboard the US hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York City, April 23
About 26% of coronavirus patients arrived at the ER and complained of stroke symptoms, while 74% developed one during hospitalization (above)
Researchers studied the risk of ischemic strokes, which occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked.
They are more difficult to treat and more deadly than hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when a weakened vessel ruptures in the brain and bleeds into the organ.
About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, according to the American Stroke Association.
For the study, published in JAMA Neurology, the team looked at 1,916 patients who went to the emergency department or were hospitalized with COVID-19 from March 4, 2020 through May 2, 2020.
They were compared to 1,486 patients who went to ER or were hospitalized with flu from January 1, 2016, through May 31, 2018.
The results showed that 31 coronavirus patients – or 1.6 percent – had a stroke.
About 26 percent came to the ER and complained of stroke symptoms, while 74 percent developed one during hospitalization.
A third of stroke coronavirus patients had severe cases and were on mechanical respirators.
Mortality rates were higher in patients with COVID-19 with ischemic stroke, with 32 percent died, compared to 14 percent of COVID-19 patients without ischemic stroke who died.
But only three flu patients – just 0.2 percent – also had a stroke.
Flu patients were on average younger, female, and had fewer underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease.
“The percentage of patients with ED visits and hospitalizations with COVID-19 with acute ischemic stroke was higher than the percentage seen in patients who visited ED or were admitted with influenza.” the authors wrote.
“These findings suggest that clinicians should be alert to symptoms and signs of acute ischemic stroke in patients with COVID-19 so that time-sensitive interventions … can be initiated, if possible, to reduce the burden of long-term disability.”
In the US, there are more than 2.6 million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 128,000 deaths.