According to a new study from the University of Florida, individuals with COVID-19 who experienced symptoms of disorientation and confusion were three times more likely to develop severe COVID-19 than patients with the virus who did not suffer neurological symptoms.
Mental Confusion Can Be An Early Warning Point Of Acute COVID-19
According to the study’s lead author, David Marra, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the department of clinical and health psychology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, which is part of UF Health, the university’s academic health center, one of the most important aspects of treating COVID-19 is looking for signs that individuals may have an assertive or serious disease course.
They discovered that some brain symptoms, especially encephalopathy, might be an early indicator of more serious COVID-19. They believe that this will offer information to front-line workers and other health care providers to assist them to be on the lookout for a more severe illness course.
The findings, published in Critical Care Explorations, are based on electronic health data from five Florida hospitals of more than 36,600 COVID-19 patients, with 12% developing severe COVID-19.
The researchers discovered that individuals with loss of smell and loss of taste were less likely to acquire severe COVID-19, which was consistent with previous national findings. Symptoms of encephalopathy were generally observed a few days before or concomitant with the condition evolving to a critical level needing extensive care, such as ICU hospitalization or ventilation.
Detecting symptoms of encephalopathy in COVID-19 patients might allow doctors to start treatment considerably sooner, perhaps averting severe illness, according to the study.
He knows they’re opening up and getting vaccinated, but COVID will be with everyone for a while, so they need to be smarter than the virus and look for things that they as physicians and families can identify early on to allow patients to combat the illness much more effectively, said study co-author Chris Robinson, D.O., a neurointensivist and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Florida College of Medicine. They will continue to lose individuals if they grow complacent with what they know at this stage.
During the early stages of the pandemic, scientists assumed that the virus entering the brain caused neurological problems in COVID-19 patients. Scientists now understand that when the body produces a strong inflammatory response to the virus — the same mechanism linked with chronic COVID — brain function might be compromised.
Encephalopathy is marked by overall disorientation and bewilderment, and the individual just doesn’t seem right, according to Marra, who adds that it can be compared to the delirious condition people may feel after being sedated.
Marra speculated that they could not know where they are or be perplexed by the people around them. They may be unaware of the date or previous occurrences. If there is a lot of general bewilderment that is out of character for that person, it might be a sign of acute brain malfunction.
In addition to health care workers, caregivers and family members can help recognize indications of encephalopathy in COVID-19 patients, according to Robinson.
One of the first questions a brain specialist asks a family member is, that if the individual is thinking normally. According to Robinson, a member of the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida, they generally obtain the bulk of enlightening information from family members who are always with the patient. He believes it is critical for family members to be aware of this and to inform health care providers.
The UF COVID-19 Rapid Response Pilot program, a research fund established by the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Affairs, provided funding for the project.