Notre Dame researcher joins international project investigating COVID-19 recovery

03 February 2021

Associate Professor Annmarie Hosie from the University of Notre Dame Australia’s School of Nursing Sydney has joined an international research project focusing on patients’ experiences of COVID-19. The study will be led by Indiana University and brings together researchers from the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Europe and Australia.

Titled Delirium-related Distress and Recovery Challenges Associated with COVID-19’, the project aims to investigate people’s experience of and recovery from COVID-19; in particular, to understand how COVID-19 impacts overall brain health and to generate ideas on how to protect the brain during future illnesses.

Currently at the information-gathering stage of the project, the team has created an anonymous voluntary survey covering questions such as the person’s symptoms, what healthcare they received and how they are recovering.

“We are particularly interested in how COVID-19 affects people’s thinking, both during the acute infection and afterwards. The survey refers to the focus of study as ‘brain health’, though the formal medical term for the type of cognitive problem being investigated is ‘delirium’, which is a sudden deterioration to a person’s thinking that is due to a physical cause,” explains A/Prof Hosie.

In offering an explanation of delirium, the study protocol notes that the neurocognitive condition affects one in five hospitalised patients, and up to 75% of patients in intensive care units – with older, cognitively impaired and/or seriously ill patients most susceptible.

An Associate Professor in Palliative Care Nursing at Notre Dame and the St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney, A/Prof Hosie became involved in the study because much of her research focuses on delirium in people with advanced illness: how to better prevent, recognise and respond to it, so that patients experience less distress and preventable deterioration. Her work has led her to become a committee member of the Australasian Delirium Association and to collaborations with international delirium researchers, including the team at Regenstrief Institute at Indiana University, the coordinating site for this study, where she was invited to join as co-investigator coordinating study recruitment in Australia.

“Many health professionals and researchers, particularly those in critical, aged and palliative care, have been concerned that people with COVID-19 are at high risk of delirium, especially those who are admitted to hospital or intensive care units,” says A/Prof Hosie. “The reason for this high risk is that, in addition to the likelihood that the infection and medical treatments will cause delirium, being isolated from family, friends and health professionals due to physical distancing, PPE and banning of visitors, can further increase the risk of delirium, as well as how distressing it is. Both having delirium in hospital and being in an intensive care unit can cause longer term issues for a patient’s physical, cognitive and emotional health and function. When this happens after an ICU admission, it is known as ‘post-intensive care syndrome’.”

With upwards of 5% of patients with COVID-19 requiring critical care including ventilator support, this study hopes to describe the prevalence of self-reported delirium-related distress, decline and post-intensive care syndrome (PICS) in COVID-19 survivors.

If you have had COVID-19 and would like to take part in the study, the survey can be completed here.

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