Two common health problems may increase risk of COVID-19 brain damage

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In a new study, researchers found that Some people with COVID-19 are at higher risk of brain complications like bleeding in the brain and stroke.

These potentially life-threatening symptoms were more common in patients with hypertension and diabetes.

The research was conducted by a team at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.

The virus that causes COVID-19 first attacks cells in the respiratory system, often leading to an inflammation of the lungs that puts people at risk of contracting pneumonia.

But the virus’ impact has also been felt in other systems of the body.

According to the team, COVID-19’s effects extend far beyond the chest.

While complications in the brain are rare, they are an increasingly reported and potentially devastating consequence of COVID-19 infection.

To learn more about the phenomenon, the team looked at COVID-19 patients who underwent head CT and/or MRI in their health system from January to April 2020.

Of the 1,357 patients with COVID-19 admitted to the system in those four months, 81 had a brain scan performed.

The most common reasons for the brain scans were altered mental state and focal neurologic deficits such as speech and vision problems.

Out of 81 patients with brain scans, 18, or just over one in five, had findings that were considered an emergency or critical, including strokes, brain bleeds, and blocked blood vessels.

At least half the patients had pre-existing high blood pressure and/or type 2 diabetes. Three patients with emergent/critical findings died while admitted.

The team says COVID-19 is linked to neurologic manifestations, and high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are common in people who develop these conditions.

The exact mechanisms for COVID-19’s harmful brain effects are not known and may involve multiple factors, although a popular theory holds that inflammation linked to the infection is the primary culprit.

In the study, blood markers of inflammation were high in people with critical results.

The researchers will continue to publish findings as more data comes in.

They are also examining the incidence of brain complications in COVID-19 patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a pump system to circulate and replenish oxygen in the blood.

One author of the study is Colbey W. Freeman, M.D., a chief resident in the Department of Radiology.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

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