Objective and subjective cognitive status after intensive care unit treatment for COVID-19

Brain Behav Immun Health. 2024 May 6:38:100786. doi: 10.1016/j.bbih.2024.100786. eCollection 2024 Jul.


Purpose: Intensive care unit (ICU) survivors can experience wide-ranging and long-lasting symptoms after hospital discharge. Cognitive impairment has received increased attention in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and can affect patients' long-term quality of life. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of cognitive impairment using an objective neurocognitive test 6 and 12 months following ICU admission and possible predictive factors for scoring below the defined cut-off. We also explored the prevalence of subjective cognitive complaints at 12 months, including the associated factors.

Methods: This was a prospective observational study of a national cohort of COVID-19 ICU survivors during the three first pandemic waves in Norway. Data was collected by the Norwegian Intensive Care and Pandemic Registry and the study group.

Results: At the six-month follow-up, 23.1% (95% CI [18.2─28.5]) of the 273 respondents scored below the cut-off on the Mini-MoCA, indicating mild cognitive impairment. At the 12-month follow-up, the prevalence declined to 11.1% (95% CI [7.5─15.6]) in 253 respondents. Older age (OR 1.06, 95% CI [1.02─1.12]) and depression (OR 1.25, 95% CI [1.07─1.55]) were associated with cognitive impairment at six months. At 12 months, almost half of the patients reported subjective cognitive complaints. Symptoms of mental health problems and fatigue were associated with subjective cognitive complaints in our exploratory analyses.

Conclusion: Cognitive impairment declined significantly from 6 to 12 months in this cohort of COVID-19 ICU patients, while subjective cognitive complaints remained high at 12 months, perhaps attributed to a high total symptom burden.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cognitive complaints; Cognitive impairment; Intensive care unit; Long-term outcome; Post-COVID condition.