Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

About one in 100 patients admitted with COVID-19 develops complications of the central nervous system, according to a new study that calls for faster brain imaging for patients.

Stroke and cerebral hemorrhage are among the potentially fatal complications associated with COVID-19 of what has been described as the largest multi-institutional international study of its kind to date.

The research will be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

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Much has been written about the general lung disease [lung] problems related to COVID-19, but we do not often talk about the other organs that may be affected, “said Professor Scott Faro.

“Our study shows that complications in the central nervous system represent a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in this devastating pandemic,” the lead author warned.

Professor Faro started his study after discovering that there were only a relatively small number of cases that form the basis of most of the existing literature on central nervous system complications in COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

Together with his colleagues, he analyzed almost 40,000 cases of hospital patients – admitted between September 2019 and June 2020 – who had tested positive for the virus at seven American and four Western European university hospitals.

Of the data the team had access to, the patients had a mean age of 66 and there were twice as many men as there were women.

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For all of these patients, the most common cause of hospitalization was confusion and altered mental state followed by fever, and many of them had other problems, including hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.

Of the cases they analyzed, the 442 found acute neuroimaging findings, which they said were most likely associated with the viral infection, corresponding to an event rate of 1.2% across the large patient group.

“Of all inpatients who received imaging such as MRI or a CT scan of the brain, the examination was positive about 10% of the time,” said Prof. Faro.

“The 1.2% incidence means that just over one in 100 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 will have a brain problem of some sort,” he warned.

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Of these problems, the most common complication was ischemic stroke, with an incidence of 6.2%, followed by intracranial haemorrhage at 3.72% and then encephalitis of 0.47% – which refers to an inflammation of the brain.

“The researchers also discovered a small percentage of unusual findings, such as acute disseminating encephalomyelitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, a syndrome that mimics many of the symptoms of a stroke,” according to RSNA.

“It is important to know the exact occurrence of all the major complications in the central nervous system,” Prof Faro said, adding, “There should probably be a low threshold for ordering brain imaging for patients with COVID-19.”

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