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Study says majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have neurological symptoms

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 4:18 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - For people sick enough to be hospitalized with COVID-19, a new study found that neurological symptoms are extremely common for those patients.

“Our knowledge about COVID-19 is still evolving,” said Dr. Ziad Darkhabani, interventional neurologist with Aurora BayCare Medical Center. “Every day we’re learning new things about this condition and about its association with neurological condition.”

Although the virus is less than a year old, Dr. Darkhabani said there are mild neurological symptoms associated with COVID-19, that include loss of smell or taste, muscle pain and headaches.

“Usually mild headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness, those mild symptoms has been reported very frequently with COVID-19,” said Dr. Darkhabani.

In a study published in the Journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, Northwestern Medicine researchers looked at 509 patients hospitalized in Chicago in March and April. Researchers found that 82 percent, 4out of 5, hospitalized patients had neurological problems.

“The study focused a lot on hospitalized patients, so it is a little concerning to see that percentage of hospitalized patient to have neurological conditions, there is no doubt about that,” said Dr. Darkhabani. “But again, unfortunately we have no good understanding if it’s directly related to the condition itself or related to the severe severity of the illness.”

Dr. Darkhabani said more severe symptoms have also been reported with COVID-19, such as encephalopathy or delirium, where a patient is extremely confused or even suffers alteration in brain function. However, Dr. Darkhabani said we don’t know if COVID-19 is directly associated with those more severe symptoms.

“We don’t know exactly if this is related to the condition itself, to the COVID-19 itself ‚or if it is related to the critical illness,” said Dr. Darkhabani. “Is it a lack of oxygen because of the COVID-19 or the COVID-19 causing inflammation?”

Stroke has also been mentioned as a possible complication of COVID-19 but Dr. Darkhabani said strokes are also a very common condition.

“There were several paper sat the beginning suggested that it might increase risk of stroke and patient. Some other papers later on basically said that association is not very well founded,” said Dr. Darkhabani. “We noticed some unusual cases where there is, no doubt, stroke presentation with COVID patient. Again, we don’t know if there was a real association or not.”

Dr. Darkhabani said studies like this always increase our knowledge and understanding about the virus now, but more research needs to be done in the future, especially when it comes to long-term effects.

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