Fully one-third of patients with COVID-19 will develop significant neurological and psychiatric problems within six months of diagnosis, according to a large study from Oxford University in the UK. Researchers predict a growing need for related clinical services and care.
The researchers used data from participants in the TriNex electronic health record network. A total of 200,000 qualified patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in 2020 matched the control groups diagnosed with either influenza or respiratory tract infections, including influenza, during the same period.
Within six months, 34% of patients with COVID-19 received a diagnosis of a neurological or psychiatric nature. For 13%, it was the first such diagnosis, reported Paul J. Harrison, FRCPsych.
Anxiety disorder was the most common diagnosis. Others included intracranial hemorrhage, ischemic stroke, and dementia. Most diagnostic categories were more common in patients with COVID-19 than in those with influenza, and the risk was higher in more serious diseases. But the frequency and relative risk of neurological and psychiatric diagnoses are increased even in patients with COVID-19 who did not require hospitalization, the authors reported.
The authors noted that COVID-19 was not associated with an increased chance of developing Parkinson’s disease or Guillain-Barré syndrome (a complication of influenza).
Harrison and colleagues predict that these patients need constant care.
“Services must be configured and funded to cope with this anticipated need,” they concluded.
The complete findings are published in Lancet.