Why do we need this research?
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, studies have hinted that the virus can increase the risk of stroke in some people. But studies have only looked at stroke in small numbers of people with the virus. We need studies in more people to understand if the virus increases the likelihood of stroke in different groups of people, and by how much.
We will urgently need to search for treatments to stop stroke happening in COVID-19 patients if the study finds that the virus:
- Increases the risk of stroke for certain groups of people (e.g. people of a certain age, ethnicity, gender).
- Increases the risk of stroke more than other health conditions, like heart disease, that are already known to increase stroke risk.
This research can establish urgent and important information about the risk of stroke in COVID-19 patients and lead to improved treatments.
Paula, who cared for her husband after his stroke said: “This research is a vital step to protect truly vulnerable groups of people from the devastating effects of stroke by better understand the links between stroke and coronavirus.”
There have also been a small number of reports of people having the COVID-19 vaccine and a certain type of stroke. But we need studies in more people to find out if the vaccine increases the likelihood of stroke in different groups of people and by how much to understand the benefits and potential risks of the vaccine.
What is the research aiming to do?
The researchers will use health information from almost all adults living in the UK (around 60 million people) that is linked to information about if they had COVID-19, the COVID-19 vaccine and/or stroke to find out:
- The risk of stroke for people with COVID-19 compared to people without the virus, and people with the vaccine compared to people without the vaccine.
- At which time a person may be at an increased risk of stroke with COVID-19 infection, or the vaccine.
- Which COVID-19 patients or vaccinated people may be more likely to have a stroke. The researchers will look at if things such as age, ethnicity and where someone lives may change the risk of a stroke in people with COVID-19.
- If COVID-19 or the vaccination increases the risk of stroke more or less than other factors already known to increase the risk of stroke, including other viruses and problems with the heart and blood vessels (like a heart attack).
By making the most of existing health information from such a large number of people, the study will be able to quickly find a possible increase in risk, even if it’s small.
About this project team
Researchers on this project are experts in stroke care and have experience doing studies that use a large collection of health records, like this one. The research is being conducted by the CVD-COVID-UK consortium, which is led by the BHF Data Science Centre. The stroke researchers will also be supported by experts in computer programming and statistics to make sure the computer systems and analysis needed to understand the large amounts of information for this study will run smoothly.