EEG Abnormalities and Their Radiographic Correlates in a COVID-19 Inpatient Cohort

Background and Objectives

To identify the prevalence of EEG abnormalities in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) with neurologic changes, their associated neuroimaging abnormalities, and rates of mortality.

Methods

A retrospective case series of 192 adult COVID-19-positive inpatients with EEG performed between March and June 2020 at 4 hospitals: 161 undergoing continuous, 24 routine, and 7 reduced montage EEG. Study indication, epilepsy history, intubation status, administration of sedatives or antiseizure medications (ASMs), metabolic abnormalities, neuroimaging pathology associated with epileptiform abnormalities, and in-hospital mortality were analyzed.

Results

EEG indications included encephalopathy (54.7%), seizure (18.2%), coma (17.2%), focal deficit (5.2%), and abnormal movements (4.6%). Epileptiform abnormalities occurred in 39.6% of patients: focal intermittent epileptiform discharges in 25.0%, lateralized periodic discharges in 6.3%, and generalized periodic discharges in 19.3%. Seizures were recorded in 8 patients, 3 with status epilepticus. ASM administration, epilepsy history, and older age were associated with epileptiform abnormalities. Only 26.3% of patients presented with any epileptiform abnormality, 37.5% with electrographic seizures, and 25.7% patients with clinical seizures had known epilepsy. Background findings included generalized slowing (88.5%), focal slowing (15.6%), burst suppression (3.6%), attenuation (3.1%), and normal EEG (3.1%). Neuroimaging pathology was identified in 67.1% of patients with epileptiform abnormalities, over two-thirds acute. In-hospital mortality was 39.5% for patients with epileptiform abnormalities and 36.2% for those without. Risk factors for mortality were coma and ventilator support at time of EEG.

Discussion

This article highlights the range of EEG abnormalities frequently associated with acute neuroimaging abnormalities in COVID-19. Mortality rates were high, particularly for patients in coma requiring mechanical ventilation. These findings may guide the prognosis and management of patients with COVID-19 and neurologic changes.

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