THE PANDEMIC quickly demonstrated the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to affect every organ system in the body, including the brain. Many patients with COVID-19 present at the hospital with symptoms of acute ischaemic stroke, caused by a sudden blockage of blood flow to or within the brain. Recent reports from medical centres across the USA have shown that patients with COVID-19 who experience acute ischaemic stroke are more likely to die or suffer serious complications, compared to non-infected stroke patients.
Clinicians from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA, analysed 230 records of patients who had suffered acute ischaemic stroke throughout the first wave of the pandemic. Investigation found that 51.0% of these patients suffered poor outcomes, with 39.1% dying either in hospital or within 30 days of being discharged. When this was compared to large pre-pandemic clinical trials, the contrast was striking. These clinical trials demonstrated a 27.6% death rate among all patients with ischaemic stroke, and 11.6% among patients with strokes caused by the blockage of one or more large blood vessels that supply the brain.
“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,” explained Adam A. Dmytriw, Massachusetts General Hospital.
Initial analysis of the data suggest that patients from less affluent areas may have been at greater risk of serious complications such as stroke. This has been theorised as connected to a reduced ability to carry out protective measures, such as social distancing or working from home.