December 14, 2020 -- COVID-19 patients can experience a wide range of complications, including strokes, seizures, movement disorders, and cognitive impairment, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice.

Even patients with moderate COVID-19 may develop these issues, the study authors wrote.

“These particular complications of COVID, and neurological disorders more generally, are about your ability to interact meaningfully with the world,” Pria Anand, MD, the lead study author and a neurologist at Boston University School of Medicine, told CNN.

“I think that’s one of the unique and devastating things about this,” she said.

Anand and colleagues analyzed data from 921 adults who were hospitalized with COVID-19 at Boston Medical Center between April 15 to July 1. Among those, 74 needed a neurology exam. Their average age was 64, and 47 of the patients already had a history of some type of neurologic disease.

Among the 74 with neurological complications, 18 patients had a stroke after contracting COVID-19, 15 had seizures and 26 had brain dysfunction that caused confusion and delirium. In addition, seven had movement disorders, and three developed a traumatic brain injury when they fell down at home after contracting COVID-19.

The majority of patients who entered the hospital with a mild neurological disability left with a moderately severe disability, researchers found. About half of them needed ongoing care at skilled nursing facilities, long-term hospitals or hospices, and 10 additional patients died.

“Neurological complications of COVID-19 may arise from direct effects of the virus but are more typically a reflection of the nervous system’s response to the infection,” Orly Avitzur, MD, president-elect of the American Academy of Neurology, told CNN.

Low oxygen levels, which often occur with COVID-19, can cause brain damage, she said. Patients with severe COVID-19 may have immune system surges that cause confusion and cognitive issues that last for months — or longer. Future studies will need to study the full long-term effects among COVID-19 survivors, she added.

“With nine months into this pandemic, we cannot yet predict the course of the long-term effects,” she said. “We are likely to be gathering these data for years to come.”

Show Sources

Neurology: Clinical Practice, “Neurologic findings among inpatients with COVID-19 at a safety-net US hospital.”

CNN, “Covid-19’s effects include seizures and movement disorders -- even in some moderate cases, study finds.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info