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Med J Aust 2021; 214 (8): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.51033
Published online: 3 May 2021

One in three COVID‐19 survivors received a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis within 6 months of infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2), an observational study published in The Lancet Psychiatry estimates. The study looked at 14 neurological and mental health disorders. The researchers analysed data from the electronic health records of 236 379 patients with COVID‐19 from the US‐based TriNetX network, which includes more than 81 million people. Patients older than 10 years who became infected with SARS‐CoV‐2 after 20 January 2020, and were still alive on 13 December 2020, were included in the analysis. This group was compared with 105 579 patients diagnosed with influenza and 236 038 patients diagnosed with any respiratory tract infection (including influenza). Overall, the estimated incidence of being diagnosed with a neurological or mental health disorder following COVID‐19 infection was 34%. For 13% of these people, it was their first recorded neurological or psychiatric diagnosis. The most common diagnoses after COVID‐19 were anxiety disorders (17% of patients), mood disorders (14%), substance misuse disorders (7%), and insomnia (5%). The incidence of neurological outcomes was lower, including 0.6% for brain haemorrhage, 2.1% for ischaemic stroke, and 0.7% for dementia. Risks of a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis were greatest in, but not limited to, patients with severe COVID‐19. Compared with the overall 34% incidence, a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis occurred in 38% of those who had been admitted to hospital, 46% of those in intensive care, and 62% in those who had delirium (encephalopathy) during their COVID‐19 infection. The authors noted several limitations to their study. First, the completeness and accuracy of the electronic health records was not known. Second, many people with COVID‐19 have mild or no symptoms and do not present for health care; the people studied here are therefore likely to have been more severely affected than the general population. Third, the severity and course of the neurological and psychiatric disorders was not known.



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