June 18, 2020

Brain MRI findings in severe COVID-19

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

In this retrospective study, researchers from the French Society of Neuroradiology found three main brain MRI patterns in patients with severe COVID-19.

The analysis of 37 patients from 16 centers found:


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  • signal abnormalities in the medial temporal lobe (43%), an area of the brain related to cognitive and emotional functions
  • non-confluent multifocal white matter hyperintense lesions on FLAIR [fluid-attenuated inversion recovers] and diffusion sequences with associated hemorrhagic lesions (30%), which closely resemble chronic disorders that destroy fatty protective nerve coverings
  • extensive and isolated white matter microhemorrhaging (24%).

The presence of hemorrhage was frequent, and the detection was of clinical importance because it was associated with worse respiratory, neurological, and biological status.

However, the researchers note, SARS-CoV-2 was only detected in the cerebrospinal fluid of one patient, and the underlying mechanisms of brain involvement remain unclear.

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