Coronavirus can cause blood clots and sudden strokes in young, healthy patients, doctors have warned. Medics in New York have seen a sevenfold increase in stroke cases in people in their 30s and 40s who either had mild or no COVID-19 symptoms at all.
It comes amid reports of growing evidence that COVID-19 makes patients more prone to blood clots, which in some cases can lead to strokes.
Dr Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon in the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, said his team usually treats less than two stroke patients under the age of 50 every month. But in the last two weeks they have seen five young coronavirus patients who suffered a sudden stroke despite being otherwise well.
“The virus seems to be causing increased clotting in the large arteries, leading to severe stroke,” Dr Oxley told CNN. “Our report shows a seven-fold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks. 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.
“All tested positive. Two of them delayed calling an ambulance.”
Don’t Avoid Contacting A Professional
Doctors have also warned that younger people are less likely to see a doctor over fears medical professionals are overstretched due to coronavirus. But they have urged them to do so as delaying treatment could lead to long-term damage or even death.
It’s not common for young people to suffer from strokes, especially in the large vessels in the brain. A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr Oxley’s team said that over the last 12 months their hospital has treated an average of 0.73 stroke patients under the age of 50 – fewer than two a month.
Of those treated by his medics, Dr Oxley said one has died, one has gone home but will need intensive care while the others are in either rehabilitation units, the stroke unit or ICU.
Meanwhile, another team of doctors has reported seeing a spike in coronavirus patients with blood clotting problems.
Dr Kathryn Hibbert told CNN that she has seen blood clotting before her eyes as she tried to insert intravenous lines into a patient’s artery.
The director of the medical intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital said: “You just watch it clot right in front of you.
“It’s rare to have that happen once, and extremely rare to have that happen twice.”
When blood clots travel to the heart or lungs the can cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism – or if they travel to the brain they cause a stroke.
Dr Jeffrey Laurence, a haematologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, said: “The number of clotting problems I’m seeing in the ICU, all related to COVID-19, is unprecedented.”
He said the problem appeared to be “widespread in severe COVID” cases.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off – and without blood, the cells in your brain can be killed or suffer damage. It can have different effects depending on where in the brain this damage occurs.
For some, the effects of a stroke can be relatively minor and will fade quickly, but others can be left with problems that leave them dependent on other people. Around one in eight people who suffer a stroke die within 30 days, so it is vital to get medical assistance as soon as possible – the sooner somebody is treated, the more likely they are to survive.
The FAST method – which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, Time – is the easiest way to remember the most common symptoms of stroke. These are a dropped mouth, inability to raise their arms and slurred speech.
If you recognise any of these signs, and believe somebody is having a stroke, dial triple-0 for an ambulance immediately.