Covid-19 patients facing neurological problems and brain complications: Study

Mumbai | Updated on June 27, 2020

A new study by the researchers, including those from The University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, maintained that the most common brain complication they found out on 153 hospitalized patients assessed during the acute phase of the pandemic was a “stroke.”

They described the range of neurological and psychiatric complications that may be linked to the disease in the study published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, as per the media reports.

“There have been growing reports of an association between Covid-19 infection and possible neurological or psychiatric complications, but until now these have typically been limited to studies of ten patients or fewer,” said Benedict Michael, lead-author of the study from The University of Liverpool.

In the study, the scientists built a UK-wide digital network for specialist doctors to report details of specific cases.

They said these portals were hosted by professional bodies representing specialists in neurology, stroke, psychiatry and intensive care.

Snapshot of Covid-19 complications

“This data represents an important snapshot of the brain-related complications of Covid-19 in hospitalised patients. It is critically important that we continue to collect this information to really understand this virus fully,” said Sarah Pett, co-author of the study from the University College London in the UK.

According to Pett, similar studies can be conducted to find the larger ramifications of the brain complexity in hospitalized patients. This can help determine the “frequency of these brain complications, who’s most at risk of getting them, and ultimately how best to treat.”

The scientists said the most common brain complication observed was a stroke, which was reported in 77 of 125 patients.

Out of 155, 57 patients had a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain, known as an ischaemic stroke. Nine patients had a stroke caused by a brain haemorrhage. And, one patient had a stroke caused by inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain. The majority were over 60 years of age.

According to the study, 39 patients showed signs of confusion or changes in behaviour reflecting an altered mental state. Of these, it noted that nine patients had unspecified brain dysfunction, known as encephalopathy, and seven people had inflammation of the brain, medically termed encephalitis.

The remaining 23 patients with an altered mental state were diagnosed with psychiatric conditions, of which the vast majority (92 per cent) were determined as new diagnoses by the notifying psychiatrist.

These patients with psychiatric diagnoses included ten patients with a new-onset psychosis, and six patients with a dementia-like syndrome, the study noted as per the PTI report.

Seven patients had shown symptoms of a mood disorder, including depression and anxiety.

However, scientists said there is also a possibility of having such brain complications prior to being infected by the Covid-19.

The researchers speculated that the high proportion of younger patients diagnosed with psychiatric conditions could be because these patients may be more likely to be referred to a psychiatrist or other specialist doctors.

Confusion or behaviour changes in older patients may be more likely to be attributed to delirium and not investigated further, they explained.

Long-term studies needed

According to scientists, it is not possible to draw conclusions based on the study about the total proportion of Covid-19 patients likely to be affected by neurological and psychiatric complications.

They said detailed long-term studies are needed in order to confirm if there is any link between Covid-19 infection and the onset of psychiatric or neurological complications in younger patients.

Published on June 27, 2020

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