MiS-C patients more likely to have neurologic and mental health effects: Study

There were higher rates of ADHD, anxiety and depression in MIS-C patients.

August 14, 2023, 10:32 PM

Children and teenagers who previously had multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, known as MIS-C, may be more likely to have neurological and mental health issues than those who did not, a recent study suggests.

Researchers from Boston Children's Hospital looked at 64 children, teens and young adults between ages 5 and 20 who were hospitalized at the hospital between November 2020 and November 2021.

The children underwent neurological examinations and assessments six months to one year after being discharged. They were also compared with siblings, friends or relatives who never had MIS-C.

Results showed that 25% of children who previously had MIS-C had "abnormal neurological findings" compared to 7% of those in the comparison group.

Patients with previous MIS-C were more likely to have memory problems as well as difficulty with motor skills and coordination. They also had higher rates of diagnosed ADHD, anxiety, depression and were more likely to report worse quality of life.

PHOTO: A doctor sees a child patient.
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Those in the MIS-C group were also more likely to experience symptoms including chest pain, back pain, headaches, fatigue and nausea.

Dr. Caitlin Rollins, a leader in the study and director of the cardiac neurodevelopmental program at Boston Children's, said while some of the symptoms could be due to stress -- including due to the COVID pandemic, she believes they're linked to MIS-C due to the higher rates among the group that previously had the condition.

"When families learn the child's symptoms could be related to MIS-C, they are reassured that others are experiencing it," she said in a press release. While additional larger studies are required to further evaluate this possible association, "We hope this study will increase awareness."

MIS-C is a rare, but serious inflammatory condition that is caused by infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID-19.

It typically occurs between two to six weeks after infection and presents a combination of symptoms, including inflammation of various parts of the body along with gastrointestinal symptoms, rash, fever, dizziness or lightheadedness and bloodshot eyes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors are unclear about what causes some children to develop MIS-C but believe it may involve a genetic predisposition for inflammation in response to respiratory diseases.

As of Monday, there have been 9,518 reported cases of MIS-C and 79 deaths over the course of the pandemic, CDC data shows. Cases were much higher during the early months of the pandemic but have since dropped dramatically.

Rollins said parents with children who've tested positive for COVID-19 should keep an eye on their children and seek medical care if needed.

"If parents are noticing changes in their child's behavior or functioning, it could be related to MIS-C, and they should seek support," she said.

PHOTO: A mother holds her child's hand while she is hospitalized, in a stock image.
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She also encouraged pediatricians and pediatric cardiologists who treat children with MIS-C to ask questions about their neurologic and mental health and have them evaluated if necessary.

Rollins said she plans to follow the children in the study who had MIS-C for a second year and hopes they will also be able to undergo MRIs to see if the condition caused any structural changes to the brain.

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