CHICAGO (WLS) — A COVID-19 study conducted by Northwestern Medicine shows 82 percent of patients hospitalized with coronavirus experience neurological symptoms during the course of the disease.

The study looked at 509 COVID-19 patients at Northwestern Medicine hospitals in the Chicago area.

The most frequent neurological symptoms were muscle pain, headaches, and encephalopathy or altered brain functions, which range from mild confusion to being in a coma.

“This is the first study of its kind in the United States,” says Igor Koralnik, MD, chief of neuro-infectious diseases and global neurology in the Ken & Ruth Davee Department of Neurology at Northwestern Medicine, who also oversees the Neuro COVID-19 Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “There are only two other published papers describing the prevalence of neurological manifestations in hospitalized COVID-19 patients in China and Europe. Our research group spent the summer performing chart reviews on the first 509 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 within the Northwestern Medicine health system, and our findings show neurological manifestations are very common in these patients.”

The study also shows more than two thirds of the patients who experienced altered brain function were unable to take care of themselves in the days after being discharged from the hospital.

“We are now looking to characterize the long-term neurologic effects of COVID-19 and the cognitive outcomes in patients with COVID-19-associated encephalopathy,” says Dr. Koralnik. “We’re studying this in patients who are discharged from the hospital, as well as in COVID-19 ‘long-haulers,’ who have never been hospitalized but also suffer from a similar range of neurological problems, including brain fog.”

The full study is being published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

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