Hellgren L, Birberg Thornberg U, Samuelsson K, Levi R, Divanoglou A, Blystad I
BMJ Open 11 (10) e055164 [2021-10-27; online 2021-10-27]
To report findings on brain MRI and neurocognitive function, as well as persisting fatigue at long-term follow-up after COVID-19 hospitalisation in patients identified as high risk for affection of the central nervous system. Ambidirectional observational cohort study. All 734 patients from a regional population in Sweden with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis admitted to hospital during the period 1 March to 31 May 2020. A subgroup (n=185) with persisting symptoms still interfering with daily life at a telephone follow-up 4 months after discharge were invited for a medical and neuropsychological evaluation. Thirty-five of those who were assessed with a neurocognitive test battery at the clinical visit, and presented a clinical picture concerning for COVID-19-related brain pathology, were further investigated by brain MRI. Findings on brain MRI, neurocognitive test results and reported fatigue. Twenty-five patients (71%) had abnormalities on MRI; multiple white matter lesions were the most common finding. Sixteen patients (46%) demonstrated impaired neurocognitive function, of which 10 (29%) had severe impairment. Twenty-six patients (74%) reported clinically significant fatigue. Patients with abnormalities on MRI had a lower Visuospatial Index (p=0.031) compared with the group with normal MRI findings. In this group of patients selected to undergo MRI after a clinical evaluation, a majority of patients had abnormal MRI and/or neurocognitive test results. Abnormal findings were not restricted to patients with severe disease.