ICUs become a ‘delirium factory’ for Covid-19 patients
By Liz Szabo, Kaiser Health News
(CNN)Doctors are fighting not only to save lives from Covid-19, but also to protect patients’ brains.
Although Covid-19 is best known for damaging the lungs, it also increases the risk of life-threatening brain injuries — from mental confusion to hallucinations, seizures, coma, stroke and paralysis. The virus may invade the brain, and it can starve the brain of oxygen by damaging the lungs. To fight the infection, the immune system sometimes overreacts, battering the brain and other organs it normally protects.
Yet the pandemic has severely limited the ability of doctors and nurses to prevent and treat neurological complications. The severity of the disease and the heightened risk of infection have forced medical teams to abandon many of the practices that help them protect patients from delirium, a common side effect of mechanical ventilators and intensive care.
And while Covid-19 increases the risk of strokes, the pandemic has made it harder to diagnose them.