Clinical Features, Laboratory, and Radiological Findings of Patients With Acute Inflammatory Myelopathy After COVID-19 Infection: A Narrative Review

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2021 Oct 1;100(10):919-939. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000001857.


The objective of this review was to analyze the existing data on acute inflammatory myelopathies associated with coronavirus disease 2019 infection, which were reported globally in 2020. PubMed, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, and online publication databases were searched. Thirty-three acute inflammatory myelopathy cases (among them, seven cases had associated brain lesions) associated with coronavirus disease 2019 infection were reported. Demyelinating change was seen in cervical and thoracic regions (27.3% each, separately). Simultaneous involvement of both regions, cervical and thoracic, was seen in 45.4% of the patients. Most acute inflammatory myelopathy disorders reported sensory motor and bowel bladder dysfunctions. On cerebrospinal fluid analysis, pleocytosis and increased protein were reported in 56.7% and 76.7% of the patients, respectively. Cerebrospinal fluid severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction was positive in five patients. On T2-weighted imaging, longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis and short-segment demyelinating lesions were reported in 76% and 21%, respectively. Among the patients with longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis, 61% reported "moderate to significant" improvement and 26% demonstrated "no improvement" in the motor function of lower limbs. Demyelinating changes in the entire spinal cord were observed in three patients. Most of the patients with acute inflammatory myelopathy (including brain lesions) were treated with methylprednisolone (81.8%) and plasma-exchange therapy (42.4%). An early treatment, especially with intravenous methylprednisolone with or without immunoglobulin and plasma-exchange therapy, helped improve motor recovery in the patients with acute inflammatory myelopathy associated with coronavirus disease 2019.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Methylprednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / drug therapy
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / virology*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Methylprednisolone