Neurological Impact of Coronavirus Disease of 2019: Practical Considerations for the Neuroscience Community

World Neurosurg. 2020 Jul;139:344-354. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2020.04.222. Epub 2020 May 6.


Background: The coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19), which is caused by infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has recently been designated a pandemic by the World Health Organization, affecting 2.7 million individuals globally as of April 25, 2020, with more than 187,000 deaths. An increasing body of evidence has supported central nervous system involvement.

Methods: We conducted a review of the reported data for studies concerning COVID-19 pathophysiology, neurological manifestations, and neuroscience provider recommendations and guidelines.

Results: Central nervous system manifestations range from vague nonfocal complaints to severe neurological impairment associated with encephalitis. It is unclear whether the neurological dysfunction results from direct viral injury or systemic disease. The virus could affect brainstem pathways that lead to indirect respiratory dysfunction, in addition to direct pulmonary injury. Necessary adaptations in patient management, triage, and diagnosis are evolving in light of the ongoing scientific and clinical findings.

Conclusions: The present review has consolidated the current body of data regarding the neurological impact of coronaviruses, discussed the reported neurological manifestations of COVID-19, and highlighted the recommendations for patient management. Specific recommendations pertaining to clinical practice for neurologists and neurosurgeons have also been provided.

Keywords: COVID-19; Encephalitis; Guideline; Neuroscience; SARS-COV-2.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy
  • Neurosciences / trends*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy
  • SARS-CoV-2