A small study, published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, shows a link between COVID-19 and brain complications. Medical experts say the findings give an important snapshot of potential complications of the virus and highlights the need to investigate the possible effects of COVID-19 in the brain. But the study should still be viewed with caution, as it was a fairly small investigation and was based on doctors’ observations.
As a result, it is not possible to draw conclusions from the data about the prevalence of the complications highlighted in the study.
Benedict Michael, the lead author of the study from the University of Liverpool, said: “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 10 patients or fewer.
“Ours is the first nationwide study of neurological complications associated with COVID-19, but it is important to note that it is focused on cases that are severe enough to require hospitalisation.”
The study reviewed 125 patients treated in UK hospitals during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, in April.
Authors of the research asked specialist doctors to report clinical details of COVID-19 patients, who were experiencing a range of neurological and psychiatric complications that were potentially linked to the disease.
The most common brain complication observed was a stroke, which was reported in 77 patients.
A further 39 patients showed signs of confusion or changes in behaviour reflecting an altered mental state, with seven of these having inflammation of the brain, medically termed encephalitis.
The remaining 23 patients with an altered mental state were diagnosed with psychiatric conditions, including psychosis, a dementia-like syndrome and mood disorders.
The study highlights the need to investigate the links between coronavirus and brain complications and to rule out the possibility that the illnesses were simply co-occurring with COVID-19 rather than caused by it.
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