Covid patients can later suffer from neurological or psychiatric problems

One in three people, after having been infected with Covid-19, were diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric problems in the six months following the infection, according to a study on mental health carried out in more than 200 people. Anxiety (17%) and mood disorders (14%) are the most frequent diagnoses, according to the study, published Wednesday in the trade journal The Lancet Psychiatry.

The incidence of neurological problems such as brain hemorrhages (0,6%), cerebrovascular accidents (2,1%), and dementia (0,7%) is globally lower, but the risk is generally higher among patients who were seriously ill. Covid patients, review Page12.

Although the risk at the individual level for most of these neurological and psychiatric problems is low, the effect can be 'considerable' for health systems due to the breadth of the pandemic, explained Professor Paul Harrison (University of Oxford, UK ), lead author of the study. According to Harrison, many of these problems are chronic and he recommends equipping health systems with resources to "meet the needs."

A chronic and recurring condition

When analyzing the electronic health records of 236.379 patients affected by COVID-19, the authors conclude that 34% had a diagnosis of neurological or psychiatric disease in the six months following the infection. For 13% of people, it was the first neurological or psychiatric diagnosis. 

The risk of developing long-term problems increased in patients hospitalized for severe covid-19. Specifically, 46% of the patients who were in resuscitation had neurological or psychiatric problems six months after being infected.

About 7% of the patients who were in resuscitation had a subsequent cardiovascular accident, 2,7% a cerebral hemorrhage, and about 2% developed dementia, against respectively 1,3%, 0,3% and 0,4% of those not hospitalized.

The researchers also crossed data from more than 100.000 patients who had a flu diagnosis and the more than 236.000 patients with a diagnosis of respiratory infections.

The risk of a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis is generally 44% higher after Covid than after a flu, and 16% higher than after a respiratory infection.

"Unfortunately, many problems identified in this study tend to become chronic or recurrent, so we can anticipate that the impact of Covid-19 could last for many years," said Dr. Jonathan Rogers of the University of London (UCL), in a comment published in the magazine.

The people studied were probably more severely affected than the general population. In other words, the authors consider those people, numerous, who do not go to consult due to mild or non-existent symptoms and, therefore, do not weigh in the records.

 

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