If patients die from the consequences of COVID-19 disease, it is mainly due to pneumonia or lung failure. The corona virus can also lead to heart attack and stroke and cause long-term neurological damage.

At the beginning of the corona pandemic, doctors assumed that those who survived COVID-19 disease would be healthy. However, there are increasing indications that COVID-19 can lead to serious and permanent consequential damage. This includes persistent breathing and lung problems, but also serious damage to blood vessels and the brain. Months later, the risk of thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attack and stroke appears to be increasing.

COVID-19 can lead to inflammatory processes in the brain

“It is assumed that the whole thing is due to damage to the endothelium that lines the vessels due to the virus,” explains Ulrike Protzer from the Technical University of Munich. This then causes the platelets to collect there to repair the damage. Thrombosis can occur in overreactions.

The doctors now suspect that inflammatory processes also lead to blockages in the blood vessels. It is not yet clear how long they will take. Some patients report long-term circulatory problems, others tiredness that persists months after the illness. Headache or decreased sense of smell or taste have also been reported.

Serious neurological complications are possible

It is not yet clear how often COVID-19 causes neurological damage. According to a study by researchers from the University of Liverpool, around 900 cases of neurological complications were known worldwide in mid-May, including more than a hundred serious diseases such as meningitis or the so-called Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which patients are paralyzed.

Brain damage even with easy courses?

University College London neurologists also reported in the Brain magazine that coronavirus was already present in patients with only mild symptoms or in those who had recovered, which can cause brain damage. However, these are usually recognized too late or not at all.

Former researcher headed by Dr. Michael Zandi, lead author of the study, examined over 40 Covid-19 patients and found acute demyelinating enzyme phalomyelitis (ADEM) in some of them. This is an inflammatory disease that leads to degenerative destruction of the central nervous system.

Consequences similar to multiple sclerosis

“We have never seen Covid-19 attack the brain with other viruses,” says Zandi. The massive brain damage, which also occurs in patients with mild corona symptoms, is particularly unusual.

The experts found inflammation of the central nervous system in a total of twelve of the patients examined and a temporary brain disease with delirium or psychosis in ten. “From a biological point of view, ADEM has some similarities to multiple sclerosis, but is more serious and usually only occurs once,” explains Zandi. Some patients will have long-term disabilities, while others will recover well, the study author said.

A final assessment is not yet possible

According to experts, however, it is still too early to be able to finally assess whether and to what extent brain damage can occur even with minor treatments. In order to monitor the associated courses, the University Hospital Munich in Großhadern has now set up a contact point for patients with mild Covid 19 courses.

“As with any new illness that we have not yet fully understood, you should take a close look at what will happen in the coming months and years,” explains Professor Matthias Klein from the Department of Neurology in Großhadern. There is currently no way to estimate this.

Foto: © Adobe Stock / Yakobchuk Olena