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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 69  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 260--271

Neuroimaging Patterns in Patients with COVID-19-Associated Neurological Complications: A Review

1 Department of Neurology, King George Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Neurology, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Rae Bareli Road, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ravindra K Garg
Department of Neurology, King George Medical University, Lucknow - 226 003, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.314531

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Background: A variety of neuroimaging abnormalities in COVID-19 have been described. Objectives: In this article, we reviewed the varied neuroimaging patterns in patients with COVID-19-associated neurological complications. Methods: We searched PubMed, Google Scholar, Scopus and preprint databases (medRxiv and bioRxiv). The search terms we used were “COVID -19 and encephalitis, encephalopathy, neuroimaging or neuroradiology” and “SARS-CoV-2 and encephalitis, encephalopathy, neuroimaging or neuroradiology”. Results: Neuroimaging abnormalities are common in old age and patients with comorbidities. Neuroimaging abnormalities are largely vascular in origin. COVID-19-associated coagulopathy results in large vessel occlusion and cerebral venous thrombosis. COVID-19-associated intracerebral hemorrhage resembles anticoagulant associated intracerebral hemorrhage. On neuroimaging, hypoxic-ischemic damage along with hyperimmune reaction against the SARS-COV-2 virus manifests as small vessel disease. Small vessel disease appears as diffuse leukoencephalopathy and widespread microbleeds, and subcortical white matter hyperintensities. Occasionally, gray matter hyperintensity, similar to those observed seen in autoimmune encephalitis, has been noted. In many cases, white matter lesions similar to that in acute disseminated encephalomyelitis have been described. Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis in COVID-19 seems to be a parainfectious event and autoimmune in origin. Many cases of acute necrotizing encephalitis resulting in extensive damage to thalamus and brain stem have been described; cytokine storm has been considered a pathogenic mechanism behind this. None of the neuroimaging abnormalities can provide a clue to the possible pathogenic mechanism. Conclusions: Periventricular white-matter MR hyperintensity, microbleeds, arterial and venous infarcts, and hemorrhages are apparently distinctive neuroimaging abnormalities in patients with COVID-19.


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