Background: SARS-CoV-2 can affect the human brain and other neurological structures. An increasing number of publications report neurological manifestations in patients with COVID-19. However, no studies have comprehensively reviewed the clinical and paraclinical characteristics of the central and peripheral nervous system's involvement in these patients. This study aimed to describe the features of the central and peripheral nervous system involvement by COVID-19 in terms of pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, neuropathology, neuroimaging, electrophysiology, and cerebrospinal fluid findings.
Methods: We conducted a comprehensive systematic review of all the original studies reporting patients with neurological involvement by COVID-19, from December 2019 to June 2020, without language restriction. We excluded studies with animal subjects, studies not related to the nervous system, and opinion articles. Data analysis combined descriptive measures, frequency measures, central tendency measures, and dispersion measures for all studies reporting neurological conditions and abnormal ancillary tests in patients with confirmed COVID-19.
Results: A total of 143 observational and descriptive studies reported central and peripheral nervous system involvement by COVID-19 in 10,723 patients. Fifty-one studies described pathophysiologic mechanisms of neurological involvement by COVID-19, 119 focused on clinical manifestations, 4 described neuropathology findings, 62 described neuroimaging findings, 28 electrophysiology findings, and 60 studies reported cerebrospinal fluid results. The reviewed studies reflect a significant prevalence of the nervous system's involvement in patients with COVID-19, ranging from 22.5 to 36.4% among different studies, without mortality rates explicitly associated with neurological involvement by SARS-CoV-2. We thoroughly describe the clinical and paraclinical characteristics of neurological involvement in these patients.
Conclusions: Our evidence synthesis led to a categorical analysis of the central and peripheral neurological involvement by COVID-19 and provided a comprehensive explanation of the reported pathophysiological mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 infection may cause neurological impairment. International collaborative efforts and exhaustive neurological registries will enhance the translational knowledge of COVID-19's central and peripheral neurological involvement and generate therapeutic decision-making strategies.
Registration: This review was registered in PROSPERO 2020 CRD42020193140 Available from: https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?ID=CRD42020193140.
Keywords: COVID-19; Central and peripheral nervous system; Cerebrospinal fluid findings; Clinical manifestations; Electrophysiology; Neuroimaging; Neuropathology; Pathophysiology; SARS-CoV-2.