Background The primary aim of this study was to provide additional data of neuroimaging features of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a large-scale population admitted in several northern Italy institutions. The secondary aim was to analyze acute cerebrovascular disease (CVD) prevalence in COVID-19.
Methods A database of confirmed COVID-19 hospitalized patients who developed acute neurological symptoms and underwent any neuroimaging was retrospectively gathered from twelve institutions based in Lombardy from February 21st to July 10th. To assess the prevalence of CVD we conducted a scoping review following the PRISMA extension guidelines for scoping reviews. We searched PubMed/Medline, SCOPUS and EMBASE databases for peer-reviewed in-press or published studies from December to January 2021 reporting CVD in COVID-19 patients.
Results Out of 90 COVID-19 patients who were referred to neuroimaging, 78 (87%) showed CVD, in particular 65 had acute ischemic strokes (AIS), 8 had intracerebral hemorrhages, 2 subarachnoid hemorrhages (SAH) and 3 showed clinical and imaging findings in keeping with posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES); 6 patients (7%) showed clinical and imaging findings highly suggestive of encephalitis; 3 patients (3%) showed demyelinating diseases: 1 case of MS progression, 1 case of newly diagnosed MS and 1 case of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM); 2 cases (2%) acuity of chronic subdural hematoma (cSDH); 1 patient (1%) with Guillain Barré syndrome. In addiction two patients with CVD developed cauda polyradiculitis and tetraparesis. In our scoping review out of 3275 studies, 24 satisfied the inclusion criteria: in a pooled total population of 136198 patients, the pooled prevalence of CVD was 0.9%. In particular 0.8% of AIS and 0.1% of ICH and 0.003% of PRES.
Conclusions Our study shows a high prevalence of CVD among patients who developed acute neurological symptoms, which is in line with papers reporting data comparable to ours. The heterogeneity of clinical reports, however, constitutes a limitation when comparing our findings with those of the clinical papers. Nonetheless, CVD could be a frightening association with COVID-19, particularly in critically ill patients. Healthcare policymakers and clinicians should be prepared to a likely increase in workload and to rearrange the strategy of healthcare delivery.