Severe COVID-19 Can Lead to Delirium, US Study Finds

According to a study conducted in the United States, severe COVID-19 can cause delirium.

A study of 150 COVID patients hospitalized in the United States at the start of the pandemic discovered that 73% of them had delirium, a dangerous mental condition in which a person is confused, agitated, and unable to think coherently.

Patients with delirium were found to be sicker, had more comorbidities like hypertension and diabetes, and had more severe COVID-related illness, according to the study, which was published in the journal BMJ Open.

“COVID is also linked to a number of other negative outcomes that tend to prolong hospitalization and complicate rehabilitation,” stated research author Phillip Vlisides of the University of Michigan in the United States.

For a cohort of patients admitted to the intensive care unit between March and May 2020, the researchers used patient medical records and telephone questionnaires after discharge. They wanted to see if there were any common threads among delirium sufferers.

The researchers pointed out that the condition can cause a lack of oxygen in the brain, as well as the formation of blood clots and strokes, all of which can contribute to cognitive impairment.

Inflammatory markers were significantly elevated in delirium patients. They believe that brain inflammation could cause confusion and anxiety.

“We weren’t implementing conventional delirium prevention practices like we generally do early in the epidemic,” Mr. Vlisides added.

“We had minimal personal protective equipment early in the pandemic in the pre-vaccine era, and we were attempting to prevent COVID exposure and disease transmission,” he added. There was a link between sedative usage and delirium, with patients with delirium being sedated more frequently and at larger doses.

“IV sedatives are commonly used in the ICU, especially for patients on a ventilator. However, based on our discussions with nurses, we discovered that patients with severe COVID were intrinsically more delirious and agitated at the outset, perhaps leading to more sedative use “Mr. Vlisides stated.

The study also discovered that cognitive impairment can remain long after a patient has been discharged.

Almost a third of patients’ delirium was not reported as resolved in their charts when they were discharged, and 40% of these patients required professional nursing care.

According to their caretaker’s judgment, about a quarter of the patients tested positive for delirium. These symptoms lingered for months in some patients.

This can make the process of recovering from a hospital stay much more challenging.

Mr. Vlisides stated, “Any inventive ways we can incorporate in delirium prevention practices is going to be very helpful.”

“This includes keeping in touch with family members, bringing in images and artifacts from home, and video visits if family members are unable to visit securely,” he added.

The take-home message is that cognitive impairment, including depression and delirium, is quite likely in individuals hospitalized with severe COVID-19, he added.

“Overall, this study demonstrates yet another reason why getting vaccinated and avoiding serious illness is critical. Long-term neurological issues can occur, which we may not discuss as much as we should “Mr. Vlisides explained.

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