Henry Ford to open post-ICU brain clinic for COVID-19 patients, others with behavioral health issues from Crain’s Detroit Business

January 28, 2021

  • Brain health clinics to open in Detroit and West Bloomfield
  • Program geared to help overcome lingering emotional, mental health issues
  • Funded in part by $500,000 grant from Michigan Health Endowment Fund

Patients struggling from negative effects of a stay in an intensive care unit, including those who had COVID-19, will soon have a clinic offered by Henry Ford Health System to deal with the long-term cognitive, emotional and mental health issues.

Last year, the Michigan Health Endowment Fund awarded Henry Ford’s neuropsychology department a $500,000 healthy aging grant to establish the Post ICU Brain Health Clinic for COVID-19 survivors and other critically ill patients.

Post-ICU syndrome is a well researched problem for some patients that Henry Ford and others have recognized over the years, said Brad Merker, director of Henry Ford’s neuropsychology department.

“Anywhere between 10 to 40 percent of patients could experience some type of neuropsychiatric conditions, whether it’s cognitive, emotional, behavioral problems” after an ICU stay, Merker said. “We thought we could help patients more with this clinic.”

Open primarily to adults age 55 or older and their caregivers, Henry Ford’s post-ICU brain clinic is designed to evaluate anyone who has had an ICU stay in the past year and continues to experience cognitive, behavioral or psychiatric problems as a result of their stay.

“This is not just for COVID-19, it’s for all ICU patients because those patients are more prone to experience cognitive problems,” Merker said.

The program also is open for younger people needing evaluations. “We are not going to turn anyone away,” he said.

Starting in late February, appointments will be taken for Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. Physician and patient self-referrals can be made by contacting the clinic at (313) 876-2526.

Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are surviving at higher rates than at the beginning of the pandemic when doctors didn’t have any treatment options. Still, more than 14,000 people have died in Michigan and more than 400,000 nationally from COVID-19. While thousands more have recovered, some have lingering medical problems that have puzzled medical practitioners.

Over the coming years, doctors expect a huge surge in patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19, placed on ventilators, could not have visitors and were unable to see their providers’ faces because of the use of personal protective equipment. As a result of their ICU experience, some patients are likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, Merker said.

Last August, Crain’s reported the phenomena of post-viral COVID-19 syndrome, a new ailment doctors were beginning to use to describe people who contracted COVID-19 and thought they had recovered, only to develop a range of lingering health problems.

Michigan doctors said some patients discharged from hospitals after COVID-19 have developed heart and kidney problems, suffered lung damage and neurological issues such as blood clots and joint pain. Common cognitive and psychological symptoms of post-ICU syndrome, which is believed to be related to post-viral COVID-19 syndrome, include memory and concentration difficulties; slowed mental processing; trouble carrying out tasks; anxiety; depression; problems sleeping and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In August, Wayne State University opened a COVID-19 Continuing Care Clinic that is housed at the DMC University Health Center at 4207 St. Antoine Road in Detroit. It is staffed by Wayne Health physicians.

“We have had monthly sessions and have treated a handful of long haul patients,” said Dr. Heather Abraham, one of the founders of the program and a Wayne State assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics. She also practices at Detroit Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Michigan Medicine also is expected to soon open a post COVID-19 multidisciplinary clinic for treatment of COVID-19 long haulers, spokesperson Kelly Malcom said.

Other hospitals across the country have begun to open clinics for patients who continue to suffer lingering health problems after having COVID-19. For example, Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago will soon open a Comprehensive COVID-19 Center for patients dealing with long-term effects.

Two of the most common effects are ongoing shortness of breath and brain fog, Dr. Charles Davidson, vice chair for clinical affairs at Northwestern’s Department of Medicine, said in an interview with Crain’s Chicago Business.

“We’re just at the beginning of this journey,” Davidson said. “We developed a research arm of the center to better understand what this disease is, how best to treat it and diagnose it, and also to help educate the medical community about all the different long-term manifestations for this illness.”

Read “Henry Ford to open post-ICU brain clinic for COVID-19 patients, others with behavioral health issues” from Crain’s Detroit Business.

Learn more about Heather Abraham, M.D.

Henry Ford to open post-ICU brain clinic for COVID-19 patients, others with behavioral health issues from Crain’s Detroit Business
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