Stroke, Confusion: COVID-19 Often Impacts the Brain, Study Shows

A nurse helping a coronavirus patient

All those included in the study were only really affected by the COVID 19, therefore, the researchers said that it is not promising to draw any kind of conclusions from this study about the total proportion of COVID-19 patients likely to be affected.

Co-author Dr Benedict Michael, from Liverpool University, said: 'Whilst an altered mental state was being reported by some clinicians, we were surprised to identify quite so many cases, particularly in younger patients, and by the breadth of clinical syndromes ranging from brain inflammation (encephalitis) through to psychosis and catatonia.

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

Michael Sharpe, a professor of psychological medicine at the University of Oxford, said: "This report describes often striking cases of neurological and psychiatric illness as being sometimes associated with severe Covid-19 in hospitalised patients".

Data was collected between April 2 and April 26 - when the disease was spreading exponentially in the UK.

"This (is) an important snapshot of the brain-related complications of Covid-19 in hospitalised patients". World Health Organization has also busted some myths surrounding coronavirus. This study provides the foundations for larger, hospital and community-based studies. This can help determine the "frequency of these brain complications, who's most at risk of getting them, and ultimately how best to treat".

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After adjusting for age, gender, and risk factors, the scientists found that COVID-19 infection had a significant independent association with acute ischemic stroke - caused by a clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Age data was available for 74 of the patients who experienced a stroke and the majority were over 60 years of age.

The study says 39 patients had an "altered mental status". 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. Long-term follow-up studies to assess duration and severity of these complications are needed. The rest 23 also had similar symptoms like psychosis, dementia-like state, and other disorders. Although most psychiatric diagnoses were recorded as new, the researchers say they can not exclude the possibility that these were undiagnosed before the patient developed Covid-19.

Among the 125 surveyed, 61 out of 77 were aged 60 and older, or 82 percent.

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. We already know that COVID-19 is causing blood clots in the lungs that can travel to various organs of the body. As of now, we see these symptoms are new, and we need further studies to get more clarity as to whether it's a coexisting condition with the disease or the disease flares up the condition that was subtle or the disease cause this condition. However, medical experts say the findings highlight the need to investigate the possible effects of Covid-19 in the brain and studies to explore potential treatments. The Lancet Psychiatry, S221503662030287X.

The study was published in The Lancet and was conducted during the peak period of case multiplication in the country. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

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