Some COVID-19 patients taken off ventilators are taking days or even weeks to wake up

A significant number of patients with severe COVID-19 who have spent long periods on ventilators are taking days or weeks to awaken from medically induced comas. When they do regain consciousness, many face the need for months of cognitive and physical rehabilitation, and some might never return to their previous level of functioning.

A significant number of patients with severe COVID-19 who have spent long periods on ventilators are taking days or weeks to awaken from medically induced comas. When they do regain consciousness, many face the need for months of cognitive and physical rehabilitation, and some might never return to their previous level of functioning. "Some of these patients, we wean them on off sedation, take the breathing tube out, and right away they give us a thumbs up, or a few words," said Nicholas Schiff, a neurologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York who specializes in treating disorders of consciousness. "But there are others who are still not following commands and still not expressing themselves weeks later." The incidence of these cases of prolonged recovery is still unknown, Schiff stated. The severity of their neurological effects can range from "mental fog," fatigue, or mild memory lapses, to severe dysfunction requiring lengthy rehabilitation, according to a paper in Neurocritical Care. "The magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic will result in substantial neurological disease," the paper said. "The sheer volume of those suffering critical illness is likely to result in an increased burden of long-term cognitive impairment."