By Robert Preidt
The findings could improve care and save lives during the pandemic, the researchers said.
“This study is the first to show that the presence of neurological symptoms, particularly stroke and confused or altered thinking, may indicate a more serious course of illness, even when pulmonary problems aren’t severe,” said study co-author Dr. David Altschul, chief of neurovascular surgery at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
His team analyzed data on 4,711 COVID-19 patients who were admitted to the Montefiore system between March 1 and April 16. Of those, 581 (12%) had neurological problems serious enough for doctors to order brain imaging.
These patients were compared with a control group of more than 1,700 COVID-19 patients of similar age and disease severity who didn’t have neurological symptoms.
Among patients who had brain imaging, 55 were diagnosed with stroke and 258 had confusion or altered thinking ability.
Compared to the control group, patients with stroke were twice as likely to die (49% versus 24%) and patients with confusion also had a significantly higher risk of death (40% versus 33%), according to findings published online Dec. 18 in the journal Neurology.
More than half of the stroke patients didn’t have high blood pressure or other underlying risk factors for stroke, researchers noted.
“This highly unusual finding agrees with other studies of people with COVID-19 in suggesting that infection with the novel coronavirus is itself a risk factor for stroke,” Altschul said in a Montefiore news release.
The National Library of Medicine has more on COVID-19.
SOURCE: Montefiore Health System, news release, Dec. 18, 2020