Objective: Most SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals never require hospitalization. However, some develop prolonged symptoms. We sought to characterize the spectrum of neurologic manifestations in non-hospitalized Covid-19 "long haulers".
Methods: This is a prospective study of the first 100 consecutive patients (50 SARS-CoV-2 laboratory-positive (SARS-CoV-2+ ) and 50 laboratory-negative (SARS-CoV-2- ) individuals) presenting to our Neuro-Covid-19 clinic between May and November 2020. Due to early pandemic testing limitations, patients were included if they met Infectious Diseases Society of America symptoms of Covid-19, were never hospitalized for pneumonia or hypoxemia, and had neurologic symptoms lasting over 6 weeks. We recorded the frequency of neurologic symptoms and analyzed patient-reported quality of life measures and standardized cognitive assessments.
Results: Mean age was 43.2 ± 11.3 years, 70% were female, and 48% were evaluated in televisits. The most frequent comorbidities were depression/anxiety (42%) and autoimmune disease (16%). The main neurologic manifestations were: "brain fog" (81%), headache (68%), numbness/tingling (60%), dysgeusia (59%), anosmia (55%), and myalgias (55%), with only anosmia being more frequent in SARS-CoV-2+ than SARS-CoV-2- patients (37/50 [74%] vs. 18/50 [36%]; p < 0.001). Moreover, 85% also experienced fatigue. There was no correlation between time from disease onset and subjective impression of recovery. Both groups exhibited impaired quality of life in cognitive and fatigue domains. SARS-CoV-2+ patients performed worse in attention and working memory cognitive tasks compared to a demographic-matched US population (T-score 41.5 [37, 48.25] and 43 [37.5, 48.75], respectively; both p < 0.01).
Interpretation: Non-hospitalized Covid-19 "long haulers" experience prominent and persistent "brain fog" and fatigue that affect their cognition and quality of life.
© 2021 The Authors. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Neurological Association.