Study shows altered mental function in nearly one-third of COVID-19 patients in the U.S


According to a study published in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, patients who contracted COVID-19 were found to have an altered mental state or encephalopathy, showing symptoms like short-term memory loss, dementia, confusion, stupor, or a coma like consciousness. 

In the study, a team of researchers examined the neurological symptoms of COVID-19 patients by observing 509 patients at 10 hospitals in Chicago between March 5th and April 6th. The team found out that 82% of patients showed neurological symptoms during the course of the disease.

While the neurologic effects are seen in nearly one-third of the COVID-19 patients, researchers also found that it raised the risk of mortality in such patients. Altered mental states in patients, also termed medically as ‘encephalopathy,’ include symptoms like disorientation, memory loss, and profound unresponsiveness. Even though encephalopathy was being reported by COVID-19 patients of all age types, older patients were found to be more prone to such altered mental functions. The study also indicated that patients with encephalopathy were mostly ‘older males’, who have previously suffered from neurological disorders, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, chronic kidney diseases, heart failure, hypertension, or smoking. 

It was found that patients with encephalopathy stayed in the hospital three times longer than those without such a problem. “Encephalopathy was associated with increased morbidity and mortality, independent of respiratory disease severity,” the study says. According to the New York Times, Dr. Igor Koralnik, the senior author of the study, stated that only 32% of the patients with altered mental functions were able to do routine activities like cooking and paying bills while 89% of patients without any mental issues were able to do such activities independently. However, scientists have not figured out the cause of encephalopathy, which can be triggered by inflammation and the lack of blood circulation. 



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