Delirium, confusion and agitation may be common in patients hospitalized with severe coronavirus infections, according to a new review of studies. However, most patients should recover over the long-term, researchers said Monday.
Jonathan Rogers of University College London and colleagues reviewed what happened with patients infected with two other coronaviruses: SARS in 2002-2004 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus or MERS, which still occasionally causes cases.
“If infection with [the novel coronavirus] follows a similar course to that with SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV, most patients should recover without experiencing mental illness,” Rogers and colleagues wrote in their review, published in Lancet Psychiatry.
The researchers looked at 72 different studies on SARS, MERS and Covid-19 – focusing in on any links between the diseases and psychiatric problems.
Here’s what they found:
- About a third of patients infected with SARS or MERS experienced post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD within about three years.
- About 15% of such patients were diagnosed with depression within about two years, and 15% were diagnosed with anxiety at the one-year point.
“Our analysis of more than 3,550 coronavirus cases suggests that most people will not suffer from mental health problems following coronavirus infection,” Rogers said in a statement.
Some context: Other teams have reported that delirium is common during and after hospital treatment for Covid-19, just as it was with SARS and MERS.
“While there is little evidence to suggest that common mental illnesses beyond short-term delirium are a feature of Covid-19 infection,” Rogers said. “Clinicians should monitor for the possibility that common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, and PTSD could arise in the weeks and months following recovery from severe infection, as has been seen with SARS and MERS.”
The research team cautioned that many of the studies they reviewed were of “low or medium quality,” and Rogers said that more data is needed on psychiatric symptoms associated with Covid-19.
Monitoring patients for those symptoms, he said, should be a routine part of care.