Frequency of Neurologic Manifestations in COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Neurology. 2021 Dec 7;97(23):e2269-e2281. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000012930. Epub 2021 Oct 11.


Background and objectives: One year after the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, we aimed to summarize the frequency of neurologic manifestations reported in patients with COVID-19 and to investigate the association of these manifestations with disease severity and mortality.

Methods: We searched PubMed, Medline, Cochrane library,, and EMBASE for studies from December 31, 2019, to December 15, 2020, enrolling consecutive patients with COVID-19 presenting with neurologic manifestations. Risk of bias was examined with the Joanna Briggs Institute scale. A random-effects meta-analysis was performed, and pooled prevalence and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for neurologic manifestations. Odds ratio (ORs) and 95% CIs were calculated to determine the association of neurologic manifestations with disease severity and mortality. Presence of heterogeneity was assessed with I 2, meta-regression, and subgroup analyses. Statistical analyses were conducted in R version 3.6.2.

Results: Of 2,455 citations, 350 studies were included in this review, providing data on 145,721 patients with COVID-19, 89% of whom were hospitalized. Forty-one neurologic manifestations (24 symptoms and 17 diagnoses) were identified. Pooled prevalence of the most common neurologic symptoms included fatigue (32%), myalgia (20%), taste impairment (21%), smell impairment (19%), and headache (13%). A low risk of bias was observed in 85% of studies; studies with higher risk of bias yielded higher prevalence estimates. Stroke was the most common neurologic diagnosis (pooled prevalence 2%). In patients with COVID-19 ≥60 years of age, the pooled prevalence of acute confusion/delirium was 34%, and the presence of any neurologic manifestations in this age group was associated with mortality (OR 1.80, 95% CI 1.11-2.91).

Discussion: Up to one-third of patients with COVID-19 analyzed in this review experienced at least 1 neurologic manifestation. One in 50 patients experienced stroke. In those >60 years of age, more than one-third had acute confusion/delirium; the presence of neurologic manifestations in this group was associated with nearly a doubling of mortality. Results must be interpreted with the limitations of observational studies and associated bias in mind.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD42020181867.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / mortality
  • Delirium / complications
  • Delirium / epidemiology*
  • Delirium / mortality
  • Humans
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • SARS-CoV-2 / pathogenicity
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke / epidemiology*