Neurological manifestations as primary presentation of COVID‐19 in hospitalized patients

Objective

To characterize patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) who presented primarily with neurologic symptoms without typical COVID‐19 symptoms of fever, cough, and dyspnea.

Methods

We retrospectively identified COVID‐19‐positive patients 18 years and older that had neurology symptoms on presentation requiring neurology consultation between March 14, 2020 and May 18, 2020. The patients were then classified into those with typical COVID‐19 symptoms and those without. Demographic, clinical symptoms, laboratory result, and clinical outcomes were collected.

Results

Out of 282 patients who had neurology consult during this period, we identified 56 (mean age 69.2 years, 57% women) who tested COVID‐19‐positive and had neurologic symptoms on initial presentation. Of these, 23 patients (mean age 65.2 years, 52% women) had no typical COVID‐19 symptoms while 33 did (mean age 72.2 years, 60% woman). In both groups, impaired consciousness was the most common initial neurologic symptom, followed by stroke, unsteady gait, headache, seizure, syncopal event, acute vision changes, and intracranial hemorrhage. Out of the 23 patients without typical COVID‐19 symptoms on presentation, 10 went on to develop typical symptoms with 8 needing supplemental oxygen and one requiring mechanical ventilation.

Conclusion

Patients who have COVID‐19 can present with serious neurologic symptoms such as impaired consciousness and stroke even without typical COVID‐19 symptoms. Those without typical COVID‐19 symptoms can later develop typical symptoms severe enough to need respiratory support.

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