Researchers looking into neurological deficit in former COVID-19 patients

Posted at 11:37 AM, May 08, 2020

There’s been news recently of some coronavirus patients suffering from strokes. Doctors and researchers are noticing a trend continue, that it’s more prevalent in young adults.

"As we pull apart the COVID genome and try to understand how the COVID particle infects humans, then, I think, we’ll understand more mechanistically how it’s happening," said Craig Hospital neurologist Dr. Michael Makley.

He and his colleagues are now treating stroke patients who previously tested positive for COVID-19.

"The patients I'm seeing are young adults. There are some risk factors that they had for stroke, cerebral vascular disease, but the size and the involvement of the brain is certainly worrisome for a connection to a serious COVID infection that they’ve had and have cleared," said Dr. Makley.

This is still a very new field of research as the novel coronavirus is still relatively new in the US. Coronavirus is mostly thought of as a respiratory disease, affecting the lungs. However, as medical centers look at their COVID patients and the prevalence of stroke, they’re finding the disease can impact our blood as well.

"There are suggestions that COVID itself may lead to what we call a hyper coagulable state, so people become more likely to have clots form. And that could be in the legs, that could be in the lungs, and it could be in the brain," said Dr. Makley.

And the smaller organs as well like the kidneys and liver. Dr. Makley says the patients he's treating each had a large clot in their legs in addition to their stroke, which he says supports the theory of a coagulation issue with the virus.

"In these couple of patients, we’re wondering if this is kind of a post-COVID aftermath, surviving COVID but they have this profound neurologic deficit," said Dr. Makley.

For now, he says they're called cryptogenic strokes, meaning they just don't understand the reasons behind it.

You can remember the warning signs for stroke with the acronym FAST: face drooping, arm or leg weakness on one side, speech mumbling or slurring, and time, meaning it's time to call 911 and go to the hospital.