Walton consultants lead research into neurological effects of COVID-19

Clinicians from The Walton Centre have led an early stage national study of hospitalised patients who developed brain complications in patients with COVID-19.

Lead researcher Dr Benedict Michael, a consultant neurologist with the Trust, worked with the CoroNerve Studies Group, a collaboration between the universities of Liverpool, Southampton, Newcastle and UCL, to study 153 patients treated in UK hospitals during the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings, published this week in The Lancet Psychiatry, describe a range of neurological and psychiatric complications that may be linked to the disease, including stroke and an altered mental state such as brain inflammation, psychosis and dementia-like symptoms. The study provides valuable information for clinicians and researchers taking the next steps in neuroscience COVID-19 research and planning.

All of the patients included in the study were selected for inclusion by expert doctors and therefore likely represent the most severe cases. It is not possible to draw conclusions about the total proportion of COVID-19 patients likely to be affected based on this study and in light of these findings further research is now needed, the authors say.

Dr Michael said: “Whilst an altered mental state was being reported by some clinicians, we were surprised to identify quite so many cases, particularly in younger patients, and by the breadth of clinical syndromes ranging from brain inflammation (encephalitis) through to psychosis and catatonia.

“Clinicians should be alert to the possibility of patients with COVID-19 developing these complications and, conversely, of the possibility of COVID-19 in patients presenting with acute neurological and psychiatric syndromes.”

To investigate the breadth of COVID-19 complications that affect the brain, researchers set up a secure, UK-wide online network for specialist doctors to report details of specific cases. These portals were hosted by professional bodies representing specialists in neurology, stroke, psychiatry and intensive care. Data was collected between 2 April and 26 April 2020, during the exponential phase of the pandemic.

Co-author Professor Tom Solomon, also a consultant neurologist at The Walton Centre and Director of the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool said: “This study provides a great snapshot of the spectrum of COVID-19 associated neurological disease in the UK.

“Now we can recognise these problems, we need to understand in more detail why some patients are developing these complications, and what we can do to stop it. It will also be interesting to see how these data compare with other countries.”

To read the full Lancet article, click HERE.

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Notes to editors

Further information, or to arrange a visit contact:
Sam Fleet, External Communications Officer, on 0151 556 3397 or email sam.fleet@thewaltoncentre.nhs.uk
The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust is the only hospital trust in the UK specialising in neurology, neurosurgery and pain services. Although the majority of patients come from Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, Lancashire and the Isle of Man, for some specialist treatments of complex disorders we see patients from all parts of the country, referred by their GPs or other neurologists, neurosurgeons and pain clinicians.

  •        The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust has been rated as ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission twice. The independent regulator of all health and social care services in England published its first rating on Friday 21 October 2016, following announced and unannounced inspection visits to the Trust in April 2016. The second was announced Monday 19 August 2019 after inspections in March and April 2019.

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