COVID-19 may be linked to brain complications, study finds. But does it cause them?

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Severe cases of COVID-19 may be linked to brain complications, according to the first nationwide survey of the neurological complications.
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A new study has found further evidence of a correlation between severe cases of COVID-19 and brain complications, but researchers say they still aren't sure whether those complications are directly caused by the disease.

The preliminary study, billed as the first nationwide survey of the neurological complications of the disease, was published in The Lancet Psychiatry this week.

Over the course of three weeks in April, researchers surveyed 153 hospitalized patients in the U.K. who had both a new confirmed or probable COVID-19 diagnosis and a new neurological or psychiatric diagnosis.

Researchers found that, among the 125 patients with complete medical records, 57 had a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain and 39 had an altered mental state. Among the patients with an altered mental state, 10 of the patients had developed psychosis – a "break with reality" – and seven had encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.

The patients ranged from 23 to 94 years old. While strokes were more common in older patients, researchers reported that patients experienced an altered mental state across age groups.

"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," Dr. Benedict Michael, who led the study for the University of Liverpool, said in a press release.

The study, though small, helps paint a larger picture of the many types of neurological effects of COVID-19, said Dr. Babak Jahromi, a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Medicine.

"While we've learnt over the past few months that hospitalized COVID-19 patients have a higher risk of suffering ischemic…
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