PHILADELPHIA—According to a recent study, as many as one in three COVID-19 survivors experience a mental health or neurological disorder within six months of a coronavirus infection, adding to a growing body of evidence that show COVID-19 can have serious and potentially long-lasting effects on the brain.
The Penn Neuro COVID Clinic aims to assess and treat long-haul COVID patients suffering from neurological symptoms. Recently launched by the Department of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, the clinic focuses on patients who previously tested positive for COVID-19 and experience symptoms related to cognition, headache, vertigo, and brain fog. This is the first such clinic in the region.
“We are still learning about impact of the virus on our bodies, but the Penn Neuro COVID Clinic allows physicians to implement proper outpatient services to patients experiencing the neurological aspects of long-haul COVID,” says Frances Jensen, MD, FACP, chair of Neurology. “It is also our goal to establish standardized evaluation and treatment protocols, and ultimately develop clinical trials to expand our understanding and treatment of patients affected by the virus.”
The clinic offers standardized cognitive tests to evaluate symptoms and diagnose patients, as well as screens for mental health disorders also associated with COVID-19, such as depression and anxiety. The clinic can offer referrals to the appropriate providers within the Penn Medicine network of physical, occupational, cognitive therapists, and physician subspecialists based on individual needs.
“We know how frustrating it is for long-haul COVID patients who are experiencing these symptoms,” says Danielle Sandsmark, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Neurology, one of four physicians leading the clinic. “First and foremost, we want our patients to feel heard, and then we want to administer excellent care to manage symptoms and provide relief.”
Additional physicians at the Penn Neuro COVID Clinic include Dennis Kolson, MD, PhD, a professor of Neurology, Sara Manning Peskin, MD, MS, an assistant professor of Neurology, and Matthew Schindler, MD, PhD, an instructor of Neurology. With backgrounds in different aspects of neurology – including cognitive neurology, neuroimaging, neurovirology and immunology, and neurocritical care – the physicians combine their varied expertise to give 360-degree evaluation and care to patients.
“COVID-19 is here to stay at some prevalence,” says Kolson. “In addition to treating patients currently suffering the long-term symptoms, our goals at the clinic are to also understand not only the neurological complications and pathogenic mechanisms of the infection, but also to develop treatments to mitigate the future negative effects on patients.”
The Penn Neuro COVID Clinic is conducting visits both in-person and virtually. All neurological patients are currently being referred through Penn Medicine’s Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic, which can be reached by calling 215-893-2668.
Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.9 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $496 million awarded in the 2020 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.
Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 44,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.
Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2020, Penn Medicine provided more than $563 million to benefit our community.