Nearly 13% of patients hospitalized for Covid-19 during the first year of the pandemic developed severe neurological symptoms, according to a study that analyzed data from 16,225 patients in 24 countries.
The research, led by Boston University and published this Wednesday (4) by the journal Critical Care Explorations, aimed to describe the prevalence, associated risk factors and outcome of severe neurological manifestations in hospitalized patients with Covid.
Sars-CoV-2 has been shown to cause dysfunction of multiple organ systems, including the nervous system, and neurological symptoms occur “frequently” even in patients with mild symptoms, and in some people they may continue as part of persistent Covid-19.
The team studied 16,225 patients from 179 hospitals in 24 countries and found that nearly 13% of those admitted in the first year of the pandemic developed severe neurological manifestations.
Data show that 1,656 (10.2%) had encephalopathy (any diffuse disease of the brain that alters brain function or structure) at the time of admission; 331 (2%) had a stroke; 243 (1.5%) had seizures; and 73 (0.5%) had meningitis or encephalitis on admission or during hospitalization.
“Our findings reveal that inpatient encephalopathy is present in at least one in ten patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection, while strokes, seizures and meningitis/encephalitis were much less common,” explained one of the study’s authors, Anna Cervantes-Arslanian of Boston University.
All severe neurological manifestations were associated with greater disease severity, greater need for ICU interventions, longer hospital stay, use of respirators, and higher mortality.
Patients with neurological manifestations were more likely to have medical comorbidities, especially a history of stroke or neurological disorders, increasing the risk of developing a neurological manifestation.
Anna Cervantes said that, given the association of neurological manifestations with poorer outcomes, “more studies are urgently needed” to understand why these differences occur and how to intervene.