Neurologists have expressed concerns that younger coronavirus patients have developed altered mental states as they recover from Covid-19, new research has found.
While stroke was the most common neurological complication of Covid-19 sufferers, other complications thought to be caused by the virus include delirium, psychosis and catatonia.
Research carried out by experts from the universities of Newcastle, Liverpool, Southampton and UCL, indicated medics should watch out for signs of altered mental state in Covid-19 patients, and conversely, look for coronavirus in patients with acute neurological and psychiatric conditions.
The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, was carried out by the CoroNerve Studies Group and used a rapid notification case identification system.
During three weeks of the exponential pandemic phase, the researchers studied the clinical data of 125 people from across the UK who had new diagnoses of both Covid-19 and a neurological or psychiatric condition.
Of those, 57 (44%) suffered ischemic strokes and 39 (31%) experienced an altered mental state reflecting both neurological and psychiatric diagnoses.
Whereas 61 (82%) of cases of cerebrovascular events occurred in those over 60 years old, half of cases with an altered mental state were under 60 years old.
Co-author Dr Rhys Thomas, from Newcastle University, said: “Whilst stroke represents the majority of reported cases, what is most striking with our research is that there are the individuals who present with altered mental state, including delirium, psychosis and catatonia.
“These people represent the first notifications that we as CoroNerve have received, and will represent the most severe of cases as most people will have been hospitalised.
“The project is ongoing and we have received over 550 cases now and this will help us look at recovery and risk factors of Covid-19.”
Dr Benedict Michael, from Liverpool University, said: “Whilst an altered mental state was being reported by some clinicians, we were surprised to identify quite so many cases, particularly in younger patients, and by the breadth of clinical syndromes ranging from brain inflammation (encephalitis) through to psychosis and catatonia.
“Clinicians should be alert to the possibility of patients with Covid-19 developing these complications and, conversely, of the possibility of Covid-19 in patients presenting with acute neurological and psychiatric syndromes.”