HealthDay News — Among patients with COVID-19 pneumonia in the intensive care unit (ICU) with neurological symptoms, 44% of those undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have acute findings, according to a study published online May 8 in Radiology.

Sedat G. Kandemirli, MD, from the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Iowa City, and colleagues describe brain MRI findings in 235 patients with COVID-19 pneumonia in the ICU who were assessed between March 1 and April 18, 2020, from 8 hospitals.

The researchers found that 50 of the patients (21%) developed neurological symptoms. Brain MRI was performed in 54% of the 50 patients with neurologic symptoms. Of these, 44% (12 of 27 patients) had acute findings on MRI. Cortical FLAIR signal abnormality was present in 10 of 27 patients (37%). In three patients, accompanying subcortical and deep white matter signal abnormality were present on FLAIR images. Cerebrospinal fluid was obtained from 5 of 10 patients with cortical signal abnormalities; total protein was elevated in 4 patients. In all five specimens, reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction assay findings were negative for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

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“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 improvement of respiratory findings,” the authors write.

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