By Asmau Ahmad
A new study conducted in the United Kingdom has revealed that patients who have recovered from severe COVID-19 suffer similar cognitive impairment that people between the ages of 50 and 70 go through.
The study, published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, suggested that the cognitive impairment suffered by the patients is equal to losing 10 IQ points.
The researchers from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London examined data from 46 people who received in-hospital care for COVID-19 at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, England, between March 10, 2020, and July 31, 2020.
Among the participants, 16 patients were said to have been placed on mechanical ventilation throughout their stay in the hospital.
According to the researchers, the participants underwent detailed computerised cognitive assessment for an average of six months after their severe illness. They used the cognition platform which measures different aspects of mental faculties such as memory, attention and reasoning.
Also, scales measuring anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder were assessed and their data were compared against matched controls.
The study found that COVID-19 survivors were less accurate and also, had slower response times in comparison to the matched control population. These deficits were still evident when the patients were followed up six months later, the researchers said.
They added that the effects were strongest for those who required mechanical ventilation.
The researchers said, “By comparing the patients to 66,008 members of the general public, the researchers estimate that the magnitude of cognitive loss is similar on average to that sustained with 20 years ageing, between 50 and 70 years of age, and that this is equivalent to losing 10 IQ points.”
The study’s senior author, Professor David Menon from the Division of Anaesthesia at the University of Cambridge, said, “Cognitive impairment is common to a wide range of neurological disorders, including dementia, and even routine ageing, but the patterns we saw – the cognitive ‘fingerprint’ of COVID-19 – was distinct from all of these.”
“Around 40,000 people have been through intensive care with COVID-19 in England alone and many more will have been very sick, but not admitted to hospital.
“This means there is a large number of people out there still experiencing problems with cognition many months later. We urgently need to look at what can be done to help these people,” Professor Adam Hampshire, another author of the study said.