Age and pre-existing conditions increase risk of stroke among COVID-19 patients

  Brain inflammation stroke  Credit: VSRao

Fourteen out of every 1,000 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital experience a stroke, a rate that is even higher in older patients and those with severe infection and pre-existing vascular conditions, according to a report published this week.

COVID-19 has become a global pandemic, affecting millions of people worldwide. In many cases, the symptoms include fever, persistent dry cough and breathing difficulties, and can lead to low blood oxygen. However, the infection can cause disease in other organs, including the brain, and in more severe cases can lead to stroke and brain haemorrhage.

A team of researchers at the Stroke Research Group, University of Cambridge, carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of published research into the link between COVID-19 and stroke. This approach allows researchers to bring together existing – and often contradictory or under-powered – studies to provide more robust conclusions.

In total, the researchers analysed 61 studies, covering more than 100,000 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19. The results of their study are published in the International Journal of Stroke.

The researchers found that stroke occurred in 14 out of every 1,000 cases. The most common manifestation was acute ischemic stroke, which occurred in just over 12 out of every 1,000 cases. Brain haemorrhage was less common, occurring in 1.6 out of every 1,000 cases. Most patients had been admitted with COVID-19 symptoms, with stroke occurring a few days later.  

Age was a risk factor, with COVID-19 patients who developed stroke being on average (median) 4.8 years older than those who did not. COVID-19 patients who experienced a stroke were on average (median) six years younger than non-COVID-19 stroke patients. There was no sex difference and no significant difference in rates of smokers versus non-smokers.

Pre-existing conditions also increased the risk of stroke. Patients with high blood pressure were more likely to experience stroke than patients with normal blood pressure, while both diabetes and coronary artery disease also increased risk. Patients who had a more severe infection with SARS­CoV­2 – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – were also more likely to have a stroke.

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Image:  Brain inflammation stroke

Credit: VSRao

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge


The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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