You may be wondering whether brain injury patients are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, those at risk of infection vary based on contact with patients with and without symptoms, confirmed COVID-19 patients, and those who live in or have recently been to areas with sustained transmission.
The available data is currently insufficient to identify risk factors for severe clinical outcomes. From the limited data that is available for COVID-19 infected patients, and for data from related coronaviruses, it is possible that older adults, and persons who have underlying chronic medical conditions, such as immunocompromising conditions, may be at risk for more severe outcomes. (Source: Brain Injury Association of America)
How COVID-19 Can Affect the Brain
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one risk for hospitalized patients who are recovering from COVID-19 is delirium—a state of confused thinking that can lead to long-term cognitive impairments such as memory deficits.
Their article, titled For survivors of severe COVID-19, beating the virus is just the beginning, addresses this concern:
“What we’re finding in COVID is that there’s a ton of delirium,” says E. Wesley Ely, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at Vanderbilt University whose team is preparing to publish those findings. The virus itself is partly to blame, Ely says. He suspects this coronavirus, like the ones that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome, can directly infiltrate and damage the brain. And bodywide inflammation caused by the virus can also limit blood flow to the brain and kill brain cells. Making matters worse, doctors commonly prescribe sedative drugs to suppress violent coughing and help patients tolerate the distress and discomfort of a breathing tube. But these drugs can increase the risk of delirium, Ely says. And as hospitals run short of the most commonly used sedatives, they’re turning to benzodiazepines, a class of drugs that can cause “intense and prolonged delirium,” he says.
TIRR Memorial Hermann and the Rehabilitation Network Post COVID-19 Recovery Program
TIRR Memorial Herman provides rehabilitation to individuals with brain injuries of all levels of severity, and our rehabilitation network of facilities are available for patients who are recovering after COVID-19.