COVID-19 and Acute Neurologic Complications in Children

Pediatrics. 2022 Nov 1;150(5):e2022058167. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-058167.


Background: Little is known about the epidemiology and outcomes of neurologic complications associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in children.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study of children 2 months to <18 years of age with COVID-19 discharged from 52 children's hospitals from March 2020 to March 2022. Neurologic complications were defined as encephalopathy, encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, febrile seizure, nonfebrile seizure, brain abscess and bacterial meningitis, Reye's syndrome, and cerebral infarction. We assessed length of stay (LOS), ICU admission, 30 day readmissions, deaths, and hospital costs. We used multivariable logistic regression to identify factors associated with neurologic complications.

Results: Of 15 137 children hospitalized with COVID-19, 1060 (7.0%) had a concurrent diagnosis of a neurologic complication. The most frequent neurologic complications were febrile seizures (3.9%), nonfebrile seizures (2.3%), and encephalopathy (2.2%). Hospital LOS, ICU admission, ICU LOS, 30 day readmissions, deaths, and hospital costs were higher in children with neurologic complications compared with those without complications. Factors associated with lower odds of neurologic complications included: younger age (adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 0.97; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.96-0.98), occurrence during delta variant predominant time period (aOR: 0.71; 95% CI: 0.57-0.87), presence of a nonneurologic complex chronic condition (aOR: 0.80; 95% CI: 0.69-0.94). The presence of a neurologic complex chronic condition was associated with higher odds of neurologic complication (aOR 4.14, 95% CI 3.48-4.92).

Conclusions: Neurologic complications are common in children hospitalized with COVID-19 and are associated with worse hospital outcomes. Our findings emphasize the importance of COVID-19 immunization in children, especially in high-risk populations, such as those with neurologic comorbidity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases* / complications
  • COVID-19* / complications
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases* / complications
  • Nervous System Diseases* / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants