Infectious Disease

COVID-19 patients at risk for neurological complications 1 year post-infection

October 14, 2022

1 min read

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Those who survive 30 days of SARS-CoV-2 infection have an increased risk for neurological disorders after 1 year compared with those who were not infected, according to a report in Nature Medicine.

A summary of findings from Ziyad Al-Aly, MDchief of research and development at Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System, and colleagues aimed to obtain estimates of the risks and burdens of neurological outcomes 1 year after infection.

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Al-Aly and colleagues used health care databases of the United States’ Department of Veterans Affairs to build a cohort of 154,068 patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection and compared them with 5,638,795 uninfected controls. Both cohorts were followed for 1 year.

The researchers reported that those with COVID-19 were at risk of a wide range of neurological disorders, including cerebrovascular, cognition and memory, peripheral nervous system, episodic, extrapyramidal and movement, musculoskeletal and sensory, among others.

“Overall, we estimate that patients with COVID-19 have a 42% increased risk of developing a neurological sequela in the year after infection, translating to a burden of 7% of infected people,” the authors wrote.

According to the researchers, the risks were evident among those who were infected but were higher among patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19.

“Our report adds to the growing number of studies that show that SARS-CoV-2 infection can lead to post-acute sequelae in almost any organ system,” the authors wrote. “Governments and health systems must respond to this challenge by developing robust research programs to better understand, prevent and treat long COVID. Health systems must also build care pathways to address the multisystem care needs of people with long COVID.”

In an expert opinion related to this report, Avindra Nath, MDof the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, commented, “The long follow-up, the large sample size and the syndromic approach as opposed to symptom-based characterization of the patients makes this a unique study.”

References:

Long-term neurological sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat Med. 2022;doi:10.1038/s41591-022-02018-4.

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