Penn Just Launched a Neurological Clinic for COVID-19 Long Haulers

The Penn Neuro COVID Clinic provides evaluations, screenings, and referrals for COVID-related neurological complications like brain fog and vertigo.

covid-19 long haulers penn neurological center

Penn’s new Neuro COVID Clinic will seek to help COVID-19 long haulers experiencing neurological complications. Photograph by Getty Images/PeopleImages

Last week, the CDC reported that the number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States was at its lowest in roughly one year. According to their COVID-19 data tracker, the current seven-day average of daily new cases totals 21,627 — a 91 percent decrease since this past January’s peak.

Though vaccination rates continue to increase and infections decline, some folks who have recovered from COVID-19 are experiencing lingering health complications not linked to the respiratory system. Growing scientific evidence shows that the disease — and the virus that causes it, SARS-CoV-2 — can have long-lasting negative neurological effects, including (but not limited to) “brain fog,” — which is characterized by short-term memory loss for routine actions, difficulty concentrating, or temporary confusion in the midst of completing a task — headache, weakness or numbness in the extremities, and vertigo.

To address and treat neurological complications resulting from COVID-19, the department of neurology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine recently launched a clinic specifically for COVID-19 long haulers. The Penn Neuro COVID Clinic — which Penn says is the first clinic of its kind in the region — provides both diagnostic and functional tests for anyone who has previously tested positive for COVID-19. To provide patients with comprehensive neurologic care, the clinic’s four physicians specialize in several areas of the field: Sara Manning Peskin in cognitive neurology, Danielle Sandsmark in neurocritical care, Dennis Kolson in neurovirology and immunology, and Matthew Schindler in neuroimaging.

According to Kolson, a patient visiting the clinic for the first time can expect a detailed neurologic history (pre- and post-COVID), a physical examination, and bedside screening tests of cognitive function that can indicate if there is dysfunction separate and distinct from any physical neurologic manifestations. He says the doctor is also trained to ask targeted questions that cover a range of areas — cardiology, GI, pulmonary, neurology, and mood and behavior — in order to provide the patient whole-person health care. Based on findings during the visit, the clinic may recommend further testing with Penn specialists, including physical, occupational, and cognitive therapists.

Kolson says the overarching goals of the clinic center effective care and treatment for long-haul COVID patients. “Fundamentally, we created this clinic to help answer the question, “How do we diagnose and manage neurologic complications of the virus infection?” he says. “When we look at MRIs, many of these long-haul patients have ‘normal’ looking brains, which has made diagnosing brain dysfunction as a result of COVID-19 fairly difficult. This long-haul syndrome is still new to everybody, and we are doing everything we can to evaluate and treat patients, especially in case any of these symptoms is evidence of peripheral nerve injury.”

The clinic is conducting both in-person and virtual visits. Though the clinic does not have one centralized location, patients opting for in-person will be seen at either Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, or Penn Memory Center by next-available appointment.

Currently, they are accepting patient referrals from providers within the Penn healthcare system. If you or your provider is not affiliated with Penn, call Penn’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic at 215-893-2668 to receive an evaluation referral. You must provide proof that you have previously had COVID-19.