American Heart Association


Does Concurrent COVID-19 Infection Affect Functional Outcomes of Patients With Acute Ischemic Stroke?

Mona Al Banna, MB BCh, Msc(Res)

Martí-Fàbregas J, Guisado-Alonso D, Delgado-Mederos R, Martínez-Domeño A, Prats-Sánchez L, Guasch-Jiménez M, Cardona P, Núñez-Guillén A, Requena M, Rubiera M, et al. Impact of COVID-19 Infection on the Outcome of Patients With Ischemic Stroke. Stroke. 2021.

Various studies are showing that neurologic complications, including stroke, occur frequently in COVID-19 patients. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has compromised the delivery of well-established time-sensitive therapies and system delivery in stroke care. The authors of this study set out to determine whether patients with stroke and COVID-19 had worse functional outcomes compared to patients without COVID-19 and, if so, evaluate whether this was attributable to direct effects of the virus itself or due to logistical difficulties of providing care during a global pandemic.

The authors conduced a prospective multicentered cohort study of 19 hospitals in Catalonia, Spain, from mid-March to May 15, 2020. Patients were eligible if they had an acute ischemic stroke with a previous modified Rankin Scale (mRS) of 0-3. Patients were then classified according to their SARS-CoV-2 PCR status. The authors then collected various data variables, including demographic data, vascular risk factor profiles, pre-admission medications, NIHSS on admission and at 72 hours, imaging data, reperfusion therapies (and, if applicable, TICI scores), time metrics (e.g., door to needle, door to groin), stroke etiology and functional outcome at 3 months.  

Pooled Risk-Benefit Analysis of Long-Term Antiplatelet Therapies for Non-Cardioembolic Transient Ischemic Attack or Stroke

Dixon Yang, MD

Hilkens NA, Algra A, Diener HC, Bath PM, Csiba L, Hacke W, Kappelle LJ, Koudstaal PJ, Leys D, Mas J-L, et al. Balancing Benefits and Risks of Long-Term Antiplatelet Therapy in Noncardioembolic Transient Ischemic Attack or Stroke. Stroke. 2021.

Aspirin monotherapy, aspirin with dipyridamole, and clopidogrel alone are the first-line antithrombotic therapies for long-term secondary prevention of non-cardioembolic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA). In clinical practice, we often consider an individual patient’s bleeding risks against potential benefits of reduced ischemic events from these single antiplatelet agents. Assessing risk-benefit by stratification of bleeding risk may help guide clinical decision-making. Therefore, Hilkens et al. sought to investigate the net benefit of antiplatelet treatment according to an individual’s bleeding risk through pooled analysis of six randomized control trials.

The authors pooled individual patient data from CAPRIE, ESPS-2, MATCH, CHARISMA, ESPRIT, and PRoFESS, which investigated antiplatelet therapy in the subacute or chronic phase after non-cardioembolic stroke or TIA. The authors stratified patients into quintiles by their individually calculated S2TOP-BLEED score, derived from sex, smoking, modified Rankin Scale, prior stroke, hypertension, body mass index, age, and diabetes. For each quintile, the authors determined the annual rate of major bleeding and recurrent ischemic events of: 1) aspirin monotherapy; 2) aspirin-clopidogrel versus monotherapy; 3) aspirin-dipyridamole versus clopidogrel; and 4) aspirin versus clopidogrel. In the second, third, and fourth comparisons, the authors calculated net benefit.

Article Commentary: “Predictors of Outcomes in Patients With Mild Ischemic Stroke Symptoms: MaRISS”

Dixon Yang, MD

Romano JG, Gardner H, Campo-Bustillo I, Khan Y, Tai S, Riley N, Smith EE, Sacco RL, Khatri P, Alger HM, et al, on behalf of the MaRISS Investigators. Predictors of Outcomes in Patients With Mild Ischemic Stroke Symptoms: MaRISS. Stroke. 2021;52:1995–2004.

Acute ischemic stroke commonly presents with mild or improving symptoms,1 often defined as minor stroke with NIHSS ≤ 5. Many of these patients are not treated with acute thrombolytic therapy due to exclusion from the landmark NINDS recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator efficacy trials.2 Despite perceived minor symptoms, many of those hospitalized may be unable to walk independently or return directly to home at discharge.3 Effects of thrombolysis and long-term outcomes in minor stroke are still not well understood. Thus, Romano and colleagues sought to describe multidimensional long-term outcomes in patients with mild ischemic stroke symptoms from MaRISS (Mild and Rapidly Improving Stroke Study).

This prospective observational study recruited sites who participated in Get With The Guidelines-Stroke, had more than 300 annual stroke discharges, and reflected regional and national representation of hospital centers. Eligible MaRISS participants presented within 4.5 hours from stroke symptoms onset, had a brain CT excluding non-ischemic causes, and initial NIHSS of 0-5. Those with pre-morbid disability of mRS ≥2 or with complete resolution of symptoms on initial evaluation were excluded. The primary outcome was an mRS score of 0-1 at 90 days post-event. Secondary outcomes included Barthel Index 95-100 versus <95, Stroke Impact Scale-16 (SIS-16) ≥88.2 versus <88.2, and European Quality of Life 5D-5L 1 versus <1 and its visual analogue scale ≥90 versus <90.

Predicting Outcomes of Mechanical Thrombectomy for Patients With Large Permanent Ischemic Core

Farah Aleisa, MD

Panni P, Gory B, Xie Y, Consoli A, Desilles J-P, Mazighi M, Labreuche J, Piotin M, Turjman F, Eker OF, et al. Acute Stroke With Large Ischemic Core Treated by Thrombectomy: Predictors of Good Outcome and Mortality. Stroke. 2019;50:1164–1171.

The HERMES meta-analysis demonstrated the benefit of second-generation endovascular recanalization therapies (primarily stent retrievers) over medical therapy alone among patients with acute ischemic stroke due to large vessel occlusions.1,2,3 The utilization of brain imaging to exclude patients with a large core of infarcted brain tissue in this pooled analysis was based on selection of patients with an initial Alberta Stroke Program Early CT Score (ASPECTS) of 6 or more.4,5 However, we don’t have large studies looking for the benefits of mechanical thrombectomy (MT) with large core ischemic stroke (ASPECTS <6). The available subgroup analyses in the literature concerning thrombectomy for large core stroke reported rates of symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage ranging from 16% to 31%.6-10 This study was done to address the uncertainties regarding the associated benefits and risks of MT for patients who had large core ischemic stroke by recognizing the clinical and imaging factors associated with good clinical outcomes.

The data in this study was collected from the multicentric stroke registry for acute ischemic stroke patients treated with MT. Baseline large ischemic core was defined as diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI)–ASPECTS of ≤5. The degree of disability was assessed by the modified Rankin Scale at 90 days. Outcomes included good outcome (modified Rankin Scale score of ≤2) and mortality (modified Rankin Scale score of 6).

Article Commentary: “Treatment and Outcomes of Patients With Ischemic Stroke During COVID-19”

Ericka Teleg, MD

Srivastava PK, Zhang S, Xian Y, Xu H, Rutan C, Alger HM, Walchok JG, Williams JH, de Lemos JA, Decker-Palmer MR, et al. Treatment and Outcomes of Patients With Ischemic Stroke During COVID-19: An Analysis From Get With The Guidelines-Stroke. Stroke. 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shift in stroke systems and has changed the way stroke approach and management are put in place. The impact of this is that time is still brain. Time and stroke outcomes still matter more so during this time. From a patient’s perspective in experiencing and reporting symptoms to the way emergency room systems tackle stroke during the pandemic, remain a challenge.

The objective of this study was to analyze characteristics, evaluation, treatment, and in-hospital outcomes of patients presenting with acute ischemic stroke pre-COVID-19 and during COVID-19 time. This study is important as it allows us to be able to navigate the time-sensitive nature of stroke during COVID-19. With the COVID-19 restrictions and concern for infection and transmission, several studies have demonstrated no difference in diagnostic and treatment times pre-COVID 19 versus the COVID-19 era. On the other hand, some studies showed a decline in stroke presentations. One reason emphasized in this article is underreporting of symptoms due to fear of COVID-19 exposure in-hospital.

Baseline CT-Perfusion Deficit Performs Well in Basilar Artery Stroke Prognostication

Csilla Manoczki, MD

Fabritius MP, Tiedt S, Puhr-Westerheide D, Grosu S, Maurus S, Schwarze V, Rübenthaler J, Stueckelschweiger L, Ricke J, Liebig T, et al. Computed Tomography Perfusion Deficit Volumes Predict Functional Outcome in Patients With Basilar Artery Occlusion. Stroke. 2021;52:2016–2023.

Automated CT/MRI perfusion imaging has become the gold standard for therapeutic decision-making of anterior circulation ischemic strokes presenting in the extended time window. However, there is no validated imaging selection criteria available for the less frequent, but more challenging cases of posterior circulation infarcts.

In this study, Fabritius et al. investigated the predictive value of various CT imaging parameters in a cohort of patients who had presented with acute ischemic stroke secondary to basilar artery occlusion and received modern endovascular treatment (with or without prior intravenous thrombolysis). Forty-nine eligible patients were identified retrospectively in the German Stroke Registry between June 2015 and December 2019. The standardized imaging protocol consisted of non-contrast CT, single phase CT-angiogram and whole-brain CT perfusion studies.

Long-Term Sex Differences After TIA Presentation: An Opportunity for Diagnosis and Treatment

Walter Valesky, MD

Purroy F, Vicente-Pascual M, Arque G, Baraldes-Rovira M, Begue R, Gallego Y, Gil MI, Gil-Villar MP, Mauri G, Quilez A, et al.  Sex-Related Differences in Clinical Features, Neuroimaging, and Long-Term Prognosis After Transient Ischemic Attack. Stroke. 2021;52:424–433.

Stroke affects more women than men. This gender preponderance has been attributed to longevity of women, putting them at higher risk of stroke. The gender differences are poorly reported in the literature for transient ischemic attack (TIA). The few studies that have addressed the gender differences in TIA have mainly focused on presentation nuances between men and women, initial management, and stroke recurrence rates of up to 1 year.1-2 Purroy et al. attempt to give greater insight into this issue by following a cohort of patients diagnosed with TIA for up to 10 years.

The authors analyzed data on 723 consecutive patients with TIA presenting to the emergency department after exclusion of mimics. These patients were admitted to the neurology service with a median ABCD2 score of 5. TIA was defined as transient neurologic deficits lasting less than 24 hours. Approximately 40% of these patients underwent imaging that was diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) positive on MRI within 7 days of symptom onset. The diagnostic evaluation for stroke was notable in that extra- and intracranial ultrasound was utilized for vascular imaging rather than CTA or MRA. The primary outcome was recurrent ischemic stroke defined by new neurological symptoms associated with changes on neuroimaging. 

Impact of COVID-19 on Stroke Workflow: Assessment from Comprehensive Hospitals in Connecticut

Shashank Shekhar, MD, MS

Jasne AS, Chojecka P, Maran I, Mageid R, Eldokmak M, Zhang Q, Nystrom K, Vlieks K, Askenase M, Petersen N, et al. Stroke Code Presentations, Interventions, and Outcomes Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Stroke. 2020.

Stroke management requires quick and timely evaluation by medical personnel and transfer to a primary stroke center to provide appropriate medical care. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association recently revised the stroke guidelines in 2019 to reflect the recent advancement in clinical research to clinical practice. However, after the COVID-19 pandemic started in the United States in January 2020, the whole medical system came under severe strain. Around 72% of United States adults were no longer going to public places, including hospitals, to avoid COVID-19 exposure.

This study estimates this decline in stroke volume in the Comprehensive Stroke Centers (CSC) in Connective and eventually aims to increase public awareness. The aims of the study were: compare the volume of stroke codes before and during the COVID-19 local spread; describe the demographics and clinical characteristics of patients presented with acute stroke-like symptoms during this pandemic; and find the association between the onset of the pandemic and acute stroke metrics and outcomes.

This study is a retrospective pre and during event cohort analysis and was approved by the Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) Institutional Review Board with a waiver of informed consent. The date was including from pre-pandemic cohort and pandemic cohort from 2019 and corresponding months in 2020. The number of stroke codes at three hospitals was analyzed from January 1 to April 28, 2020, and compared from the previous year.

Article Commentary: “Decrease in Hospital Admissions for Transient Ischemic Attack, Mild, and Moderate Stroke During the COVID-19 Era”

Burton J. Tabaac, MD

Diegoli H, Magalhães PSC, Martins SCO, Moro CHC, França PHC, Safanelli J, Nagel, V, Venancio VG, Liberato RB, Longo AL. Decrease in Hospital Admissions for Transient Ischemic Attack, Mild, and Moderate Stroke During the COVID-19 Era. Stroke. 2020.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic. As of this writing, the global number of cases exceeds 8.1 million. However, despite the rapidly increasing prevalence of COVID-19, many questions remain regarding this unusual and highly lethal disease. The pathogenesis of COVID-19–associated neurologic injury remains to be established. SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to induce a hypercoagulable state, thus increasing the risk of arterial thrombosis with acute ischemic stroke.(1)

From late 2019 to early 2020, COVID-19 started to disrupt the healthcare systems of many nations. From the beginning of the pandemic, it has been a major concern for doctors and public authorities that resources needed to treat other conditions such as stroke are diverted for COVID-19.(2) The authors are keen to note that “patients may be unwilling to go to a hospital for stroke treatment due to fear of becoming contaminated with the disease.” Using a population-based stroke registry, the authors of this original contribution investigated the impact of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic on stroke admissions in Joinville, Brazil. The authors’ hypotheses were as follows: First, hospital admissions for stroke were reduced after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Next, the reduction occurred only in transient ischemic attacks (TIA) and mild cases. Also, there was a change in the time between stroke onset and hospital admissions. Finally, the number of patients receiving reperfusion therapies (IVT and MT) has decreased.

Endovascular Thrombectomy With Improved Reperfusion Leads to Long-Term Public Health and Societal Cost Benefits

Melissa Trotman-Lucas, PhD

Kunz WG, Almekhlafi MA, Menon BK, Saver JL, Hunink MG, Dippel DWJ, et al. Public Health and Cost Benefits of Successful Reperfusion After Thrombectomy for Stroke. Stroke. 2020;51:899–907.

The number of deaths due to stroke is 10 million per year globally, with a prevalence of 42 million. Large vessel occlusions (LVO) account for a third of all occlusive ischemic strokes and are the largest contributor to the morbidity and mortality associated with ischemic stroke. The evolution and use of endovascular thrombectomy (EVT) for these patients have transformed stroke treatment and care; clinical trials utilizing EVT demonstrated the benefits of this technique during post-stroke recovery, including reduced disability and improved outcome. In multiple countries, EVT has been adopted as the standard of care for LVO and is recommended for use where possible in other countries — limits come from availability of suitably trained staff and equipment.