COLUMBIA, Mo. – A study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine and MU Health Care finds senior patients hospitalized with COVID pneumonia have a greater risk of developing dementia than people with other types of pneumonia.

A research team led by Dr. Adnan Qureshi, a professor of clinical neurology at the MU School of Medicine, observed the risk was greater in COVID pneumonia patients 70 years of age and older. The patients saw lapses in memory capacity, ability to perform everyday tasks, and self-regulation.

“The findings suggest a role for screening for cognitive deficits among COVID-19 survivors,” Qureshi said. “If there is evidence of impairment during screening and if the patient continues to report cognitive symptoms, a referral for comprehensive assessment may be necessary.”

The team pulled data from 1.4 billion medical encounters before July 31, 2021, and selected patients hospitalized with pneumonia longer than 24 hours. Of the 10,403 patients with COVID pneumonia, 3% developed symptoms of onset dementia after recovery, compared to 2% of of the same number of patients with types of pneumonia who develop dementia.

Qureshi said the median time between COVID pneumonia infection and dementia diagnosis was 182.

The study was recently published in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases. Partial funding for the study came from the National Institutes of Health. As is the case with initial studies, additional research would be beneficial.