High Prevalence of Alternative Diagnoses in Children and Adolescents with Suspected Long COVID-A Single Center Cohort Study

Viruses. 2023 Feb 20;15(2):579. doi: 10.3390/v15020579.


Background: Long COVID (LC) is a diagnosis that requires exclusion of alternative somatic and mental diseases. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of differential diagnoses in suspected pediatric LC patients and assess whether adult LC symptom clusters are applicable to pediatric patients.

Materials and methods: Pediatric presentations at the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Department of the University Hospital Essen (Germany) were assessed retrospectively. The correlation of initial symptoms and final diagnoses (LC versus other diseases or unclarified) was assessed. The sensitivity, specificity, negative and positive predictive values of adult LC symptom clusters were calculated.

Results: Of 110 patients, 32 (29%) suffered from LC, 52 (47%) were diagnosed with alternative somatic/mental diseases, and 26 (23%) remained unclarified. Combined neurological and respiratory clusters displayed a sensitivity of 0.97 (95% CI 0.91-1.00) and a negative predictive value of 0.97 (0.92-1.00) for LC.

Discussion/conclusions: The prevalence of alternative somatic and mental diseases in pediatric patients with suspected LC is high. The range of underlying diseases is wide, including chronic and potentially life-threatening conditions. Neurological and respiratory symptom clusters may help to identify patients that are unlikely to be suffering from LC.

Keywords: differential diagnoses; pediatric Long COVID; post COVID; post-acute sequelae SARS-CoV-2 infection; symptom cluster.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies

Grant support

This research received no external funding.