Covid-19 alters mental state of around one-third patients: Study

Prashasti Awasthi | | Updated on: Oct 06, 2020
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Mental instability ranged from confusion to delirium to unresponsiveness; very little evidence the virus directly attacks brain cells

According to a study conducted to investigate the neurological symptoms of the coronavirus, almost one-third of hospitalised Covid-19-positive patients had experienced some sort of altered mental function.

The mental instability ranged from confusion to delirium to unresponsiveness. The study was published on Monday in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

For the study, the researchers examined the database of the first 509 coronavirus patients hospitalised, from March 5 to April 6, at 10 hospitals in the Northwestern Medicine health system in the Chicago area.

These patients stayed three times as long in the hospital as patients without altered mental functions.

Their examination revealed that only 32 per cent of the patients with altered mental functions could handle day-to-day chores, like cooking and paying bills, after getting discharged.

Dr Igor Koralnik, senior author of the study and chief of neuro-infectious diseases and global neurology at Northwestern Medicine stated that, in contrast, 89 per cent of patients without altered mental functions were able to manage such activities without assistance.

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The study noted that patients with encephalopathy — altered memory function — were also almost seven times as likely to die as those who did not have neurological problems.

Researchers noticed that the younger population is more at risk of developing neurological symptoms of the virus, except for encephalopathy. This symptom is more prevalent among the older lot.

The researchers speculated that younger people may seek hospital care for muscle pain, headache or disease, among others.

The study further revealed that overall, 82 per cent of hospitalised patients had neurological symptoms at some point during the course of the disease.

Also read: 1 in 7 reported side effects after receiving Russia’s Covid vaccine: Report

Among the neurological symptoms, the study found that muscle pain occurred in about 45 per cent of patients and headaches in about 38 per cent. Around 30 per cent suffered from dizziness. Smaller percentages had disorders of taste or smell.

The researchers further added that about a quarter of the patients had faced respiratory issues for which they were kept on the ventilator. The rest were considered moderately ill and were treated either in intensive care or in a Covid-19 ward.

The study also found that Black and Latino patients were not more likely than other groups to develop neurological symptoms.

The authors of the study stated that there is very little evidence that the virus directly attacks brain cells.

Most experts say neurological effects are caused by inflammatory and immune system responses. The overactivation of the immune system often affects organs, including the brain, the New York Times reported.

Published on October 06, 2020

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