Neuroimaging findings and neurological manifestations in hospitalized COVID-19 patients: Impact of cancer and ventilatory support status

Lily McCarthy, Oleksandr Khegai, Jonathan Goldstein, Puneet Belani, Puneet Pawha, Shingo Kihira, Brian Mathew, Kapil Gururangan, Qing Hao, Anuradha Singh, Allison Navis, Bradley N. Delman, Nathalie Jette, Priti Balchandani

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Introduction Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is known to affect the central nervous system. Neurologic morbidity associated with COVID-19 is commonly attributed to sequelae of some combination of thrombotic and inflammatory processes. The aim of this retrospective observational study was to evaluate neuroimaging findings in hospitalized COVID-19 patients with neurological manifestations in cancer versus non-cancer patients, and in patients with versus without ventilatory support (with ventilatory support defined as including patients with intubation and noninvasive ventilation). Cancer patients are frequently in an immunocompromised or prothrombotic state with side effects from chemotherapy and radiation that may cause neurological issues and increase vulnerability to systemic illness. We wanted to determine whether neurological and/or neuroimaging findings differed between patients with and without cancer. Methods Eighty adults (44 male, 36 female, 64.5 ±14 years) hospitalized in the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City between March 2020 and April 2021 with reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction-confirmed COVID-19 underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during their admissions. The cohort consisted of four equal subgroups based on cancer and ventilatory support status. Clinical and imaging data were acquired and analyzed. Results Neuroimaging findings included non-ischemic parenchymal T2/FLAIR signal hyperintensities (36.3%), acute/subacute infarcts (26.3%), chronic infarcts (25.0%), microhemorrhages (23.8%), chronic macrohemorrhages (10.0%), acute macrohemorrhages (7.5%), and encephalitis-like findings (7.5%). There were no significant differences in neuroimaging findings between cancer and non-cancer subgroups. Clinical neurological manifestations varied. The most common was encephalopathy (77.5%), followed by impaired responsiveness/ coma (38.8%) and stroke (26.3%). There were significant differences between patients with versus without ventilatory support. Encephalopathy and impaired responsiveness/coma were more prevalent in patients with ventilatory support (p = 0.02). Focal weakness was more frequently seen in patients without ventilatory support (p = 0.01). Discussion This study suggests COVID-19 is associated with neurological manifestations that may be visible with brain imaging techniques such as MRI. In our COVID-19 cohort, there was no association between cancer status and neuroimaging findings. Future studies might include more prospectively enrolled systematically characterized patients, allowing for more rigorous statistical analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0283614
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3 March
StatePublished - Mar 2023


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