Xiong W, et al. Neurology 2020.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate new-onset neurologic impairments associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
METHODS: A retrospective multicenter cohort study conducted between 18 January and 20 March 2020 including people with confirmed COVID-19 from 56 hospitals officially designated in three Chinese regions; data were extracted from medical records. New-onset neurologic events as assessed by neurology consultants based on manifestations, clinical examination and investigations, in which critical events included disorders of consciousness, stroke, CNS infection, seizures and status epilepticus.
RESULTS: We enrolled 917 people with average age 48.7 years and 55% were male. The frequency of new onset critical neurologic events was 3.5% (32/917) overall and 9.4% (30/319) among those with severe or critical COVID-19. These were impaired consciousness (n=25) or/and stroke (n=10). The risk of critical neurologic events was highly associated with age above 60 years and previous history of neurological conditions. Non-critical events were seen in less than 1% (7/917), including muscle cramp, unexplained headache, occipital neuralgia, tic and tremor. Brain CT in 28 people led to new findings in nine. Findings from lumbar puncture in three with suspected CNS infection, unexplained headache or severe occipital neuralgia were unremarkable.
CONCLUSIONS: People with COVID-19 aged over 60 and neurologic comorbidities were at higher risk of developing critical neurologic impairment, mainly impaired consciousness and cerebrovascular accidents. Brain CT should be considered when new-onset brain injury is suspected, especially in people under sedation or showing an unexplained decline in consciousness. Evidence of direct acute insult of SARS-COV-2 to the CNS is still lacking.