- A preliminary study has identified brain conditions such as strokes and psychosis in some patients hospitalized with bad cases of COVID-19.
- The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, is the first systematic review of suspected brain complications since the coronavirus swept the world, its authors said.
- The study was small and may show only a correlation between the conditions. But researchers said it provided important data for future research.
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A preliminary study has found evidence of brain complications such as strokes and psychosis in patients with severe cases of COVID-19, causing scientists to call for more research into the topic.
Researchers reviewed data from patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the UK in April, when the country was experiencing a sustained peak in reported infections.
They found that neurological and psychiatric conditions associated with COVID-19 appeared to rise in tandem with the country’s rise in coronavirus cases.
The study, published in the British medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry, was small in scale, looking at 153 cases in total.
The researchers examined only cases they already knew involved brain problems and did not seek to establish how prevalent such conditions were in COVID-19 patients as a whole.
Nonetheless, the researchers said the data was valuable and called for more research on the topic.
The study examined 125 cases in detail. Of those, 77 patients had strokes, and 39 had altered mental states such as confusion or psychiatric conditions.
The researchers noted that some of these could have existed before the patients contracted COVID-19 but gone undiagnosed.
Though most cases of strokes and psychosis were in older people, younger patients were “disproportionately overrepresented” in their sample, the scientists wrote.
Brain complications have been reported as a concern since the first emergence of the virus in China, the study said. But the authors said their paper was the first systematic review of the topic.
“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,” the lead author, Benedict Michael, a senior clinician scientist fellow at the University of Liverpool, told The Guardian.
He added that it was still important to note the study had looked solely at serious cases that required hospitalization.
Michael Sharpe, a professor of psychological medicine at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian that the cases were “striking.”
He said, however, that scientists should not rule out the possibility that the cases were unrelated and simply happening at the same time as the viral infection.
Sarah Pett, a University College London professor who helped lead the work, told Reuters the study was “an important snapshot of the brain-related complications of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients.”
She continued: “It is critically important that we continue to collect this information to really understand this virus fully.”
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