Study finds brain abnormalities 'common' in COVID-19 patients

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine reviewed 84 studies involving more than 600 patients who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The study’s authors examined the results of patients’ electroencephalograms — known as EEGs, the tests detect abnormalities in brain waves, and found that brain abnormalities in COVID-19 patients were “common.”

The most common reason doctors in the studies ordered EEGs was for COVID-19 patients with “altered mental capacity,” explains Haneef, such as not being “fully conscious, not answering appropriately, or general slowness” of mental activity, followed by seizure-like events. The majority of the patients’ EEG findings [in the study] were consistent with what we typically see in critically ill patients with encephalopathy and results in altered mental status.

This isn’t the first study to look at how COVID-19 affects the brain. Early MRIs revealed “white matter [brain] abnormalities” such as “small bleeds and strokes” in COVID-19 patients. in COVID-19 infection, the clotting cascade is activated, making the brain and other organs susceptible to these small strokes. The small strokes can be associated with brain damage and even seizures.

Some of the brain abnormalities related to a COVID-19 infection are brought on indirectly — the result of other organ systems being affected by the virus, such as “lung involvement causing less oxygen to reach the brain, and heart involvement causing less blood to reach the brain. The most common brain changes were seen in the frontal lobe, which plays a key role in awareness, memory, attention and speech.

There were seizures in more than 5 percent of COVID-19 patients, which indicates some level of brain damage. Any brain damage is likely permanent as the brain is not a tissue that can regenerate itself.

This research underscores the seriousness of the virus and its long-term consequences. A lot of people think they will get the illness, get well, and everything will go back to normal. But these findings tell us that there might be long-term issues.

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