The new coronavirus appears to cause sudden strokes in adults in their 30s and 40s who are not otherwise terribly ill, doctors reported on Wednesday.
They said patients might not want to call 911 because they heard that hospitals were overwhelmed by the coronavirus cases.
There is growing evidence that COVID-19 infection can cause blood clotting in an unusual way, and a stroke would be an expected consequence.
Dr. Thomas Oxley, neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, and colleagues gave details of five people they treated. All were under the age of 50 and all had either mild symptoms of COVID-19 infection or no symptoms at all.
“The virus appears to cause increased clotting in the large arteries, resulting in a serious stroke,” Oxley told CNN.
“Our report shows a seven-fold increase in the incidence of stroke in young patients in the past two weeks. Most of these patients have no medical history and were at home with either mild symptoms (or in two cases, no symptoms) of COVID, “he added.
“All of them have tested positive. Two of them were late in calling an ambulance. “
Other doctors have also reported that people are hesitant to call 911 or go to the emergency room because of the pandemic.
It is not common for people so young to have strokes, especially strokes in the large vessels of the brain.
“For comparison, our department, in the past 12 months, has treated an average of 0.73 patients under the age of 50 every 2 weeks,” the team wrote in a letter to be published in the New England Journal. of Medicine. . It’s less than two people a month.
A stroke in a large blood vessel causes serious damage if it is not removed immediately. At least one patient has died and others are in rehabilitation, intensive care, or the stroke unit. Only one has returned home, but will require intensive care, said Oxley.
“The average person with a large stroke is severely affected,” said Oxley. “It means it’s a bigger clot. It includes one of the largest arteries in the brain. “
Brain cells die when blood flow is stopped, and the more it is blocked, the more damage is done to the brain. Prompt treatment is vital. “The most effective treatment for large strokes is clot recovery, but it must be done within 6 hours, and sometimes within 24 hours,” said Oxley.
Oxley said his team wanted to tell people to watch themselves for symptoms of a coronavirus infection and to call 911 if they have signs of a stroke.
“So far, people have been advised to only call an ambulance with shortness of breath or a high fever,” he wrote.
The easy memory device for stroke, he said, is “FAST”: F for sagging face, A for weak arms, S for speech difficulties and T for time. call 911.