Study to examine possible link between Covid-19 and stroke in UK adults

A study using health data from nearly all UK adults is to examine an “extremely concerning” possible link between Covid-19 and strokes.

The study, run by the University of Edinburgh and funded by the Stroke Association, will compare stroke in patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 and patients without the virus. The research aims to confirm if Covid-19 increases risk of stroke and by how much.

The researchers, who will build on work from the British Heart Foundation, will also analyse stroke risk and characteristics, including age, sex, ethnicity and geography, to identify which Covid-19 patients may be most at risk of stroke.

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Dr Rubina Ahmed, research director at the Stroke Association, said: “We’re extremely concerned that Covid-19 may lead to more strokes, destroying more lives.

Dr Rubina Ahmed, Research Director at Stroke Association

"Equally concerning are reports that stroke patients who have Covid-19 may be younger and experience more severe effects of stroke, including death. Severe illness due to Covid-19 is a challenge enough, but it’s worrying that a deadly stroke might also be on the way.

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"This new research can help guide the development of new treatments that can prevent life- threatening strokes.”

This research forms part of the CVD-Covid-UK flagship project consortium, which is led by the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre at Health Data Research UK. This project consortium aims to understand the relationship between Covid-19 and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke in the UK population.

Dr William Whiteley, reader in neurology at the University of Edinburgh and a lead on the research, said: “So far studies of Covid and stroke have been small. More data will improve our understanding and give a better idea of the risks of stroke after Covid-19 infection.”

Juliet Bouverie, chief rxecutive of the Stroke Association, said the research would help the charity prepare to support those affected by Covid-19 and stokes in the future, as people with Covid-19 may have additional needs.

Professor Cathie Sudlow, director of the BHF Data Science Centre, said: “We look forward to working with and supporting Dr Whiteley and his research team as they generate insights to help people with stroke, their carers and health professionals understand the impact of Covid-19 on stroke risk, and make informed decisions about their treatment and care.”

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