Covid-19 associated seizures linked to higher risk of death, finds study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 31, 2021

A new study revealed that Covid-19 can have debilitating effects on multiple organs in the body, including the brain.

The study, published in the journal Annals of Neurology, suggested that some hospitalized patients with Covid-19 experience non-convulsive seizures, which may put them at a higher risk of dying.

The study was led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)

"Seizures are a very common complication of severe critical illness. Most of these seizures are not obvious: Unlike seizures that make a person fall down and shake, or convulse, seizures in critically ill patients are usually nonconvulsive," explained co-senior author M. Brandon Westover, MD, Ph.D., an investigator in the Department of Neurology at MGH and Director of Data Science at the MGH McCance Center for Brain Health.

He added: "There is increasing evidence that non-convulsive seizures can damage the brain and make outcomes worse, similar to convulsions."

Westover noted that there have been only a few small reports of seizures in patients with severe Covid-19 illness,

For the new study, Westover and his colleagues examined medical information for 197 hospitalized patients with Covid-19 who underwent electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring. EEG tests detect electrical activity of the brain using small metal discs attached to the scalp.

The EEG tests detected nonconvulsive seizures in 9.6 per cent of patients, some of whom had no prior neurological problems. Patients who had seizures needed to be hospitalized for a longer time.

They were also four times more likely to die while in the hospital than patients without seizures. This suggested that neurological complications may be an important contributor to the morbidity and mortality associated with Covid-19.

"We found that seizures indeed can happen in patients with Covid-19 critical illness, even those without any prior neurologic history, and that they are associated with worse outcomes: higher rates of death and longer hospital stay, even after adjusting for other factors," said co-senior author Mouhsin Shafi, MD, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Neurology at BIDMC, medical director of the BIDMC EEG laboratory, and director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation.

Published on March 31, 2021

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