Abnormalities detected in brain MRI of COVID-19 patients

Of patients in the intensive care unit with COVID-19 infection who had neurologic symptoms and MRI, 44% (12/27) of patients had abnormal MRI findings.

Sedat G. Kandemirli, M.D., from the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Iowa City, and colleagues depict brain MRI discoveries in 235 patients with COVID-19 pneumonia in the ICU. The latter was assessed between March 1 and April 18, 2020, from eight hospitals.

Scientists found that 50 of the patients (21 percent) developed neurological symptoms. Brain MRI was performed in 54 percent of the 50 patients with neurologic symptoms. Of these, 44 percent (12 of 27 patients) had acute findings on MRI.

Cortical FLAIR signal abnormality was present in 10 of 27 patients (37 percent). In three patients, accompanying subcortical and deep white matter signal abnormality was present on FLAIR images. Cerebrospinal fluid was obtained from five of 10 patients with cortical signal abnormalities; total protein was elevated in four patients. In all five specimens, reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction assay findings were negative for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Scientists noted, “This report may help increase awareness for possible neurological involvement of SARS-CoV-2 for patients in the ICU and especially for patients who do not tolerate extubation despite an improvement of respiratory findings.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Brain MRI Findings in Patients in the Intensive Care Unit with COVID-19 Infection. DOI: 10.1148/radiol.2020201697

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