A large new international study involving 136 research institutions in 32 countries has found a disturbing increase in stroke incidence among younger people suffering Covid-19.

Eighty-nine researchers, including Prof. Ronen Leker from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, analyzed data from patients who tested positive for coronavirus after they had been hospitalized for stroke and other serious brain events.

The researchers analyzed whether there were differences in the MRIs of patients after contracting COVID-19 and after the onset of their stroke, and also examined whether there were geographic factors that impacted the severity of the stroke.

Prof. Ronen Leker. Photo courtesy Hadassah Medical Center

Of the 136 different medical centers in 32 countries, at least 71 reported a patient who had a stroke during their hospitalization for coronavirus or shortly thereafter.

Of the 432 patients, 323 (74.8%) had acute ischemic stroke, 91 (21.1%) intracranial hemorrhage, and 18 (4.2%) cerebral venous or sinus thrombosis.

Most troubling was the high occurrence of ischemic strokes in younger patients with no known existence of the types of ‘classical’ risk factors that contribute to the onset of stroke such as vascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or smoking.

Of the 380 patients who were known to have experienced strokes alongside COVID-19, close to 38 percent (144 patients) had no recognizable symptoms from the virus, such as cough or fever; the diagnosis came only after they were admitted to the hospital for stroke.

“This study further strengthened our understanding of the connection between the coronavirus and strokes in younger patients, as a result of blockages in larger blood vessels,” Leker explained.

“Going forward, we recommend performing COVID testing on all younger patients with strokes, particularly those with no known pre-existing conditions.  I am hopeful and confident that this study will be instrumental in providing a better understanding of the link between COVID-19 and stroke, and provide direct therapeutic benefits to patients.”

The large-scale study was published in Stroke. Doctors began examining this phenomenon after New York’s Mount Sinai hospital reported five cases of younger patients experiencing strokes after their diagnosis with Covid-19 in early 2020.