Different neurological manifestations of COVID-19 in adults and children and their impact have not been well characterized. We aimed to determine the prevalence of neurological manifestations and in-hospital complications among hospitalized COVID-19 patients and ascertain differences between adults and children. We conducted a prospective multicenter observational study using the International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infection Consortium cohort across 1507 sites worldwide from January/30th/2020 to May/25th/2021. Analyses of neurological manifestations and neurological complications considered unadjusted prevalence estimates for predefined patient subgroups, and adjusted estimates as a function of patient age and time of hospitalization using generalized linear models.
Overall, 161,239 patients (158,267 adults; 2,972 children) hospitalized with COVID-19 and assessed for neurological manifestations and complications were included. In adults and children, the most frequent neurological manifestations at admission were fatigue (adults: 37.4%; children: 20.4%), altered consciousness (20.9%; 6.8%), myalgia (16.9%; 7.6%), dysgeusia (7.4%; 1.9%), anosmia (6.0%; 2.2%), and seizure (1.1%; 5.2%). In adults, the most frequent in-hospital neurological complications were stroke (1.5%), seizure (1%), and central nervous system (CNS) infection (0.2%). Each occurred more frequently in ICU than in non-ICU patients. In children, seizure was the only neurological complication to occur more frequently in ICU vs. non-ICU (7.1% vs. 2.3%, P < .001).
Stroke prevalence increased with increasing age, while CNS infection and seizure steadily decreased with age. There was a dramatic decrease in stroke over time during the pandemic. Hypertension, chronic neurological disease, and the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation were associated with increased risk of stroke. Altered consciousness was associated with CNS infection, seizure, and stroke. All in-hospital neurological complications were associated with increased odds of death. The likelihood of death rose with increasing age, especially after 25 years of age.
In conclusion, adults and children have different neurological manifestations and in-hospital complications associated with COVID-19. Stroke risk increased with increasing age, while CNS infection and seizure risk decreased with age.