Most COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized develop neurological symptoms, new study finds | TheHill – The Hill

COVID-19 infections have at least some neurological impacts for most hospitalized patients, according to new data.

Published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, a new study examines the neurological manifestations of COVID-19 infection in 509 patients within 10 institutions in a Chicago hospital network from March 5 to April 6.

Researchers found that neurologic manifestations resulting from COVID-19 infections were present at the onset of the infection in 215 patients, or 42.2 percent of the sample population.


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Upon hospital admittance, 319 patients saw neurological symptoms associated with coronavirus infection, amounting to 62.7 percent of the total sample. More broadly, 419 patients observed some neurological illnesses of COVID-19, representing 82.3 percent of the surveilled group.

The most common neurological symptoms included myalgias (muscle pain), headaches, dizziness, encephalopathy (31.8 percent), dysgeusia (loss of taste) and anosmia (loss of smell). 

More severe neurological illness, such as strokes, movement disorders, motor and sensory deficits, and seizures were uncommon, only affecting 0.2 percent to 1.4 percent of patients. 

Medical ventilation was required for a more substantial portion of the sample, with 134 receiving respiratory intervention. This represented 26.3 percent of the sample. 

While severe infections tended to see more instances of neurological illnesses, often stemming from a higher frequency of encephalopathy in patients, several other trends were identified within the study. Patients with neurological illness in conjunction with coronavirus infection experienced longer hospital stays on average. 

Researchers also noted that younger patients tended to present neurological manifestations alongside coronavirus infections more often than older patients.

Older patients, alternatively, were more likely to experience encephalopathy, and saw a shorter time between the onset of a coronavirus infection and hospitalization. These patients were also more likely to be men and to have a history of neurological disorders or cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, smoking and diabetes, among other preexisting conditions. 

“The fact that any neurologic manifestations as a whole were more likely to occur in younger people is surprising, and could potentially be explained by greater clinical emphasis on the risk of respiratory failure than other symptoms in older patients,” the study wrote.

Instances of encephalopathy were also associated with a higher risk of severe illness and death, external from the severity of the initial COVID-19 infection. 

Ultimately, neurological symptoms associated with COVID-19 infections were recorded in more than four-fifths of monitored patients. 

While the cause of the encephalopathy in patients couldn’t be determined, scientists believe it originates from the systemic disease and inflammation caused by COVID-19, and direct neuroinvasion by the virus. 

This report adds to scientific literature documenting symptoms of COVID-19 infections outside of the respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath and persistent coughs. The loss of smell and taste was chronicled in coronavirus patients in Wuhan, China, and published in JAMA back in April. 


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