People hospitalised with COVID-19 and neurological problems including stroke and confusion, have a higher risk of dying than other patients infected with the novel coronavirus, according to a new study.
The research, published in the journal Neurology — the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology — assessed data from 4,711 COVID-19 patients who were admitted to the Montefiore Medical Center in the US during the six-week period between March 1, 2020 and April 16, 2020.
According to the scientists, including those from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US, 581 of the 4,711 patients had neurological problems serious enough to warrant brain imaging.
They compared these individuals with 1,743 non-neurological COVID-19 patients of similar age and disease severity who were admitted during the same period.
“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 David Altschul, a co-author of the study from Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“Hospitals can use this knowledge to prioritise treatment and, hopefully, save more lives during this pandemic,” Altschul said.
The researchers believe the findings have the potential to identify and focus treatment efforts on individuals most at risk, and could decrease COVID-19 deaths.
In the study, they said 55 participants were diagnosed with stroke and 258 people exhibited confusion or altered thinking ability.
According to the scientists, individuals with stroke were twice as likely to die (49 per cent mortality) compared with their matched controls (24 per cent mortality) — a statistically significant difference.
They said people with confusion had a 40 per cent mortality rate compared with 33 per cent for their matched controls.
Over 50 per cent of the stroke patients in the study did not have hypertension or any other risk factors for stroke.
“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.