Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)-Associated Encephalopathies and Cerebrovascular Disease: The New Orleans Experience

World Neurosurg. 2020 Sep;141:e437-e446. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2020.05.192. Epub 2020 May 28.


Background: The coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a dramatic impact on health care systems and a variable disease course. Emerging evidence demonstrates that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is associated with central nervous system disease. We describe central nervous system manifestations in critical patients with COVID-19 at our tertiary center.

Methods: We conducted a single-center retrospective analysis of all actively critical patients with COVID-19 admitted to our tertiary care academic center in New Orleans, Louisiana, on April 22, 2020, with new onset of neurologic disease. Patients were grouped into 1 of 3 categories according to imaging and clinical features; encephalopathy, acute necrotizing encephalopathy, and vasculopathy.

Results: A total of 27 of 76 (35.5%) critical patients with COVID-19 met inclusion criteria. Twenty patients (74%) were designated with COVID-19-associated encephalopathy, 2 (7%) with COVID-19-associated acute necrotizing encephalopathy, and 5 (19%) with COVID-19-associated vasculopathy. Sixty-three percent of neurologic findings were demonstrated on computed tomography, 30% on magnetic resonance imaging, and 44% on electroencephalography. Findings most often included ischemic strokes, diffuse hypoattenuation, subcortical parenchymal hemorrhages, and focal hypodensities within deep structures. Magnetic resonance imaging findings included diffuse involvement of deep white matter, the corpus callosum, and the basal ganglia. For patients with large-territory ischemic stroke, all but one displayed irregular proximal focal stenosis of the supraclinoid internal carotid artery.

Conclusions: Analysis of active critical COVID-19 admissions at our revealed a high percentage of patients with new neurologic disease. Although variable, presentations followed 1 of 3 broad categories. A better understanding of the neurologic sequalae and radiographic findings will help clinicians mitigate the impact of this disease.

Keywords: Cerebrovascular disease; Infectious disease; Neurologic surgery; SAR-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Diseases / etiology*
  • Brain Diseases / therapy
  • Brain Ischemia / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Ischemia / etiology
  • Brain Ischemia / therapy
  • COVID-19
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / etiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnostic imaging
  • Critical Care
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leigh Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Leigh Disease / etiology
  • Leigh Disease / therapy
  • Louisiana
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroimaging
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome