Several hospitals in the US have observed strokes in a number of patients being treating for coronavirus, leading to concern that the infection may be causing devastating blockages in the brain. For at least two facilities, these events account for a spike in stroke cases among middle-aged patients.
“Our report shows a seven-fold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks,” Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Health System in New York who describes five of his patients in an upcoming paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, tells CNN. “Most of these patients have no past medical history and were at home with either mild symptoms (or in two cases, no symptoms) of Covid.”
Although the numbers of stroke incidents among coronavirus patients remains low, The Washington Post notes that three medical centers in the US will be publishing reports on dozens of COVID-19 patients who experienced strokes. And these appear to be the most serious kind of stroke, called a large vessel occlusion, which might account for the surge in the number of people who have died at home during the pandemic, but this cannot be confirmed.
Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and NYU Langone Health found that 40 percent of the 12 people treated for large vessel blockage who also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were under age 50, according to the Post. “We are used to thinking of 60 as a young patient when it comes to large vessel occlusions,” Eytan Raz of NYU Langone tells the newspaper. “We have never seen so many in their 50s, 40s and late 30s.”
Oxley tells Medscape Medical News that the virus may be causing inflammation in blood vessels, leading to blood clots. Raz speculates that perhaps because younger people don’t suffer the respiratory issues that take a toll on older COVID-19 patients, they survive long enough for the virus to cause damage elsewhere.
Oxley tells CNN that two of the patients had delayed calling an ambulance when they began experiencing symptoms, but that it’s critical to act fast to treat stroke. Of the five Mount Sinai patients that Oxley describes in his upcoming paper, one patient died, one remains in the hospital, two are in rehabilitation, and one is at home, Medscape reports. The outlet also notes that Oxley and his colleagues dedicated their upcoming report to Gary Sclar, a stroke doctor and colleague who died of COVID-19 while caring for patients.