Neurological Manifestations of Long COVID: A Single-Center One-Year Experience

Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2023 Feb 3;19:311-319. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S387501. eCollection 2023.


Purpose: We report our single-center experience on the neurological manifestations of long COVID.

Patients and methods: This is a retrospective observational study. All consecutive patients referred to the neurological long COVID outpatient clinic of our institute from January 21 2021 to December 9 2021 underwent a general neurological objective examination. Treatments and investigations (brain MRI, neuropsychological evaluation, or others) were prescribed on an individual basis as per standard clinical practice. A follow-up visit was performed when appropriate. Descriptive statistics were presented as absolute and relative frequencies for categorical variables and as means, median, and ranges for continuous variables.

Results: One hundred and three patients were visited (mean age 50.5 ±36 years, 62 females). The average time from acute COVID-19 infection to the first visit to our outpatient clinic was 243 days. Most patients presented with a mild form of acute COVID-19, with only 24 cases requiring hospitalization. The neurological symptoms mostly (n=70/103, 68%) started during the acute phase (before a negative swab for SARS-CoV-2). The most frequent acute manifestations reported, which lately became persistent, were fatigue (n=58/103, 56%), olfactory/taste dysfunction (n=58/103, 56%), headache (n=47/103, 46%), cognitive disorders (n=46/103, 45%), sleep disorders (n=30/103, 29%), sensitivity alterations (n=29/103, 28%), and dizziness (n=7/103, 7%). Tremor was also reported (n=8/103, 7%). Neuropsychological evaluation was performed in 30 patients and revealed alterations in executive functions (n=6/30, 20%), memory (n=11/30, 37%), with pathological depressive (n=9/30, 30%) and anxiety (n=8/30, 27%) scores. Brain MRIs have been performed in 41 cases, revealing nonspecific abnormal findings only in 4 cases. Thirty-six patients underwent a follow-up, where a general improvement was observed but rarely (n=2/36) a complete recovery.

Conclusion: The majority of patients presenting persistent neurological symptoms (most frequently fatigue, cognitive disorders, and olfactory dysfunctions) developed a previous mild form of COVID-19. Further studies are required to develop therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: COVID 19; cognitive disorders; follow-up; hypo/anosmia; neuroCOVID; neuropsychology.