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Healthwatch 16: Study focuses on connection between COVID-19 and stroke

Studies on COVID-19 are popping up all over in the medical field, as researchers work to learn more about this novel coronavirus.

DANVILLE, Pa. — Geisinger scientists recently lead a team of experts from all over the world to study the correlation between a COVID-19 infection and the risk of stroke.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some doctors wondered whether there was a possible link between the virus and a higher risk of having a stroke. 

"So far I think it has been the biggest multinational study to answer that question," said vascular neurologist, Dr. Ramin Zand.

A team at Geisinger Medical Center, lead by vascular neurologist Dr. Ramin Zand and researcher Dr. Vida Abedi, contacted colleges and medical centers all over the world to begin the first phase of a multinational study. They looked at data from 100 medical centers in 11 countries, more than 26-thousand COVID-19 patients in all. 

"Some of the centers have national data. We were able to contact the health ministries and access their international data, actually," said researcher, Dr. Vida Abedi.

They found that the rate of stroke among COVID-19 patients is low—an overall stroke risk of .05% to 1.2% among hospitalized patients with an active infection.

"Someone could argue that looking into historical data published in the past, this rate might be similar to other critical conditions and other infections," said Dr. Zand.

But their research also found something interesting when it came to the demographics of those at risk: they were younger than typical stroke patients.

"We are seeing that younger patients tend to be more at risk, and most of these patients don't have comorbidities or any other indications, and that is certainly alarming," said Dr. Abedi.

A follow-up study is now underway using all that data researchers gathered. They're hoping to look for any possible patterns and identify risk factors.

The initial findings of the study have been published by the journal Lancet.