Study: Diabetes, Hypertension May Increase Risk of COVID-19 Brain Complications


A study to be presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America reported that COVID-19 patients with diabetes and hypertension may have a higher risk for neurologic complications.


Results of an ongoing study has demonstrated an association in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients between the presence of hypertension and diabetes and a higher risk of neurological complications.

The study, which will be presented at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting held virtually this year, reported that neurological complications can be fatal when it comes to COVID-19 infection and that these manifestations are more common in patients with hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus, according to Colbey W. Freeman, MD, chief resident in the department of Radiology at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“These populations may be at higher risk for neurologic complications and should be monitored closely,” Freeman added.

Investigators in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania evaluated 81 COVID-19 patients through head CT and/or MRI brain scans; the most common reasons for a brain scan were altered mental state and focal neurologic deficits, such as speech and vision problems. Eighteen patients showed emergency or critical neurologic complications, including strokes, brain bleeds, and blocked blood vessels, according to investigators.

The study also demonstrated that Black patients with COVID-19 should also be closely monitored, as two-thirds of patients who showed critical results were Black.

In addition to evaluating neurological complication incidence in COVID-19 patients with hypertension and type 2 diabetes, the study also aims to understand these complications on patients receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

“We have plans to initiate a larger prospective study evaluating delayed, long-term and chronic neurologic manifestations that may not be known in this early period in the pandemic,” Freeman said.


1. Diabetes, hypertension may increase risk of COVID-19 brain complications. News Release. Radiological Society of America; November 18, 2020. Accessed November 24, 2020.

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