Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a study of 150 patients hospitalised for COVID in the United States at the beginning of the pandemic found that 73 per cent had delirium, a serious disturbance in mental state wherein a person is confused, agitated and unable to think clearly.

According to the study, which was published in the journal BMJ Open, found that patients with delirium tended to be sicker, with more comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes, and appeared to have more severe COVID-related illness.

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Study author Phillip Vlisides, from the University of Michigan in the US said, “COVID is also associated with a number of other adverse outcomes that tend to prolong hospitalisation and make recovery difficult.”

The researchers used patient medical records and telephone surveys following hospital discharge for a group of patients hospitalised in the intensive care unit between March and May 2020. They attempted to identify common threads amongst patients who developed delirium.

The researchers also noted that the disease itself can lead to reduced oxygen to the brain as well as the development of blood clots and stroke, resulting in cognitive impairment.

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The reports stated that inflammatory markers were greatly increased in patients with delirium. “Confusion and agitation could be a result of inflammation of the brain,” they said.

The study also found that cognitive impairment can persist even after discharge.

Almost a third of patients did not have their delirium marked as resolved in their chart upon leaving the hospital and 40 percent of these patients required skilled nursing care.

It is also said that a quarter of patients were tested positive for delirium based on assessment by their caretaker. For some patients, these symptoms lasted for months.

With this, it can be understood that for patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19, cognitive impairment – including depression and Delirium – is highly likely.