Press release -
Leading stroke charity funds first study into long-term impact of Covid-19 on stroke
It is thought that the virus could be increasing the chance of blood clots forming in the brain and blocking blood flow . The Stroke Association is funding this vital research to investigate the difference the virus could make to stroke recoveries, which are already at risk due to disruption to stroke services caused by the pandemic .
The study will establish which differences in patients with and without the virus may influence their needs for treatment and care, including how to avoid the risk of having further strokes.
Researchers at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) will follow up to 4,000 stroke survivors, with and without Covid-19 from across 13 emergency stroke units. Stroke recovery, rehabilitation and health will be tracked for up to 18 months after their stroke. Researchers will collect and assess comprehensive, specialist medical information from stroke patients, including brain scans, blood samples and measures of disability. The findings will help to understand how Covid-19 impacts stroke recovery and which treatments might best support survivors’ recoveries.
Dr Richard Perry, lead researcher at UCLH, said: “Research that compares stroke in patients with and without Covid-19 is essential to understand if Covid-19 results in more severe strokes, where survivors will need more support to recover from its devastating effects. While redeployed to stroke wards at the start of the pandemic, I would see patients admitted with unusual strokes, who would then go on to have a positive Covid-19 test.
“The findings from this study will inform decisions about the most effective treatment and the rehabilitation needs of this group of patients, including prevention of recurrent stroke. We already know that from the moment a person has a stroke or mini-stroke they are at substantial increased risk of further strokes .
“We’ve come a long way since the start of the pandemic. I’m incredibly proud of stroke doctors and researchers throughout the UK who generously gave their time to contribute to the early stages of our study on the impact of Covid-19 on stroke, when we had no resources and were entirely dependent on their goodwill. This much-needed funding means we can continue the urgent work.”
Stroke is a sudden brain attack, stroke strikes every five minutes, and there are more than 1.2 million stroke survivors living in the UK, including almost 70,000 in Wales.. However, this is set to rise; it is predicted that the number of stroke survivors aged 45 and over could rise to 1.4 million in 2025, and 2.1 million in 2035 .
Geoff Bodman is 57 and lives in Cardiff with his wife Julie. Geoff was a self-employed painter and decorator until he fell ill with Covid-19 in March 2020.
A month after going in to hospital with Covid-19, Geoff had a stroke whilst under sedation and on a ventilator.
On the day Geoff first noticed he was ill, he’d got up for work as usual. He remembers not feeling great but put it down to the after effects of enjoying himself at Cheltenham Festival the day before. As the day progressed however, Geoff felt more and more unwell and with a soaring temperature, felt too sick to continue working. Two days later, on Sunday, Geoff’s wife Julie called an ambulance as his condition had got so bad.
Geoff says: “I remember when the ambulance crew arrived with all their PPE equipment on, it was like something out of Alien. They were all kitted out in their safety gear, it was quite something. Within two days of getting to the hospital I was in Intensive Care on a ventilator.”
Geoff says: “Thankfully I have no memory of that time but I know, at one point, the team looking after me didn’t think I’d make it and my wife and family were told to prepare for the worst. I’m so glad that the big man upstairs had other ideas.”
“When they brought me round, I was over the worst of Covid-19 but it was then they told me that I’d had a stroke whilst under sedation. I remember not being able to move my right arm at all. It was really scary. I then spent another month in hospital not only recovering from coronavirus but also recovering from a stroke.”
“I just want to pay a huge tribute to not only the doctors and nurses who saved my life when I was so ill with coronavirus, but all the medical team who have looked after me since.
“They’re all unsung heroes and deserve praise from all of us. I’m so grateful to the speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and the physio therapists who worked with me day after day in hospital and at home, to recover some movement in my right arm. At the start I was unable to lift my hand at all and I’m now delighted that I’m now able to move it slowly.”
As well as losing the movement in his right arm, Geoff found after his stroke, he’d lost the ability to read and write.
Geoff says: “It was embarrassing in the beginning, having to read pre-school books but that's what I had to do. I wanted so badly to learn to read and write again. The changes that my body and brain had gone through were frightening in the beginning. Having to go back and learn to read again was upsetting to me. Every couple of weeks I feel I’ve made another big step. I’m so fortunate I’ve got an amazing family and friends.”
Dr Rubina Ahmed, Research Director at the Stroke Association, said: “Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability in the UK and the second biggest killer in the world. It’s extremely concerning that we’re seeing strokes happening in ways we have not seen before. This research is absolutely critical in understanding and treating stroke after Covid-19, to help reduce the devastating effects and ultimately improve lives. Covid-19 is here to stay, so it’s vital we can prevent and treat strokes linked with the virus.
“The pandemic has shattered our fundraised income and is threatening research that drives life-changing breakthroughs in stroke care. As a result of the pandemic, we have had to halve our budget for stroke research. Research improves treatment and care for people affected by stroke so they can live their best lives possible, and that’s why stroke research is worth saving. Now more than ever, we need the public’s support. If you can, please help us find a way through the research funding crisis by donating today, so that we can fund more life-saving research.”
In February, the Stroke Association announced the world’s largest study to confirm if Covid-19 increases the risk of stroke and by how much. Together with the new research announced today, the two studies will help doctors to prevent and best treat Covid-19 strokes in the people who are most at risk.
Over the past 30 years the Stroke Association has played a crucial role in supporting stroke research in the UK. Research helps stroke survivors rebuild their lives, but the pandemic has hit research hard. By saving stroke research, more sure stroke survivors can live life to the full.
Find out how stroke research helps rebuild lives at stroke.org.uk/rebuildinglives or to donate, please visit: stroke.org.uk/saveresearch
- Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK and it changes lives in an instant.
- The Stroke Association is a charity working across the UK to support people to rebuild their lives after stroke. We believe that everyone deserves to live the best life they can after stroke. From local support services and groups, to online information and support, anyone affected by stroke can visit stroke.org.uk or call our dedicated Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100 to find out about support available locally.
- Our specialist support, research and campaigning are only possible with the courage and determination of the stroke community and the generosity of our supporters. With more donations and support, we can help rebuild even more lives.
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