Neurological involvement of coronavirus disease 2019: a systematic review

J Neurol. 2020 Nov;267(11):3135-3153. doi: 10.1007/s00415-020-09990-2. Epub 2020 Jun 19.


Background: In December 2019, unexplained cases of pneumonia emerged in Wuhan, China, which were found to be secondary to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-2019) outbreak, a pandemic.

Objective: To clarify the neurological complications of SARS-CoV-2 infection including the potential mechanisms and therapeutic options.

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search from December 01, 2019 to May 14, 2020 using multiple combinations of keywords from PubMed and Ovid Medline databases according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. We included articles with cases of COVID-19 where neurological involvement was evident.

Results: We were able to identify 82 cases of COVID-19 with neurological complications. The mean age was 62.3 years. 37.8% of the patients were women (n = 31). 48.8% of the patients (n = 40) had cerebrovascular insults, 28% (n = 23) had neuromuscular disorders, and 23% of the patients (n = 19) had encephalitis or encephalopathy.

Conclusions: Neurological manifestations of COVID-19 are not rare, especially large vessel stroke, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and meningoencephalitis. Moving forward, further studies are needed to clarify the prevalence of the neurological complications of SARS-CoV-2 infection, investigate their biological backgrounds, and test treatment options. Physicians should be cautious not to overlook other neurological diagnoses that can mimic COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Keywords: Neurological complications; Pandemic; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / virology*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2