Healthbeat: Geisinger-led study finds link between COVID-19 and severe strokes

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DANVILLE, MONTOUR COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — We’ve seen how COVID-19 can have a wide-ranging impact on patients, from mild symptoms to severe illness. Some COVID patients are suffering strokes which has led to a locally led, groundbreaking, multi-national study. 

The Geisinger-led study finds that not only do COVID-positive people have more severe strokes, but also more strokes are occurring in younger COVID patients.

During the pandemic, Geisinger Vascular Neurologist Ramin Zand noticed a disturbing trend among some patients with COVID-19 whether they had symptoms.

“They developed brain infarction or stroke in the absence of traditional vascular risk factors that usually you see among patients with a stroke. They either have high blood pressure or diabetes or other risk factors,” Dr. Zand said.

Those strokes were more severe according to Dr. Zand and his wife, Geisinger Research Scientist Vida Abedi. The couple helped lead a three-phase, year-long study starting in April 2020. It focused on 432 multi-national patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and stroke.

The study resulted in more than one startling takeaways.

“The most striking observation was that the most affected group by far were the younger patients who may pass the COVID, get cured,” Abedi said.

More than a third of those COVID strokes occurred in people younger than 55. The study also found about half of all strokes in the study group, nearly 45 percent, were large vessel occlusions or LVOs when only about 1 in 3 ischemic or clot-induced strokes in the general population are LVOs.

“When you have a blood clot in one of these large blood vessels in the brain, a big part of the brain can go through ischemia and that is a surrogate of a larger stroke and more severe type of a stroke,” Dr. Zand said.

In a time when some people are vaccine hesitant, these experts are delivering a vital message.

“We always talk about the side effects of vaccines, and they can do this and that, but we never talk about the side effect of not having the vaccine that is beyond just COVID,” Abedi said.

The Geisinger-led report on the correlation between COVID-19 and strokes is published in the journal, Stroke.

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