Topographical distribution of neuroanatomical abnormalities following COVID-19 invasion: A systematic literature review

Ceyda Kiyak, Ogochukwu Ann Ijezie, Joseph A. Ackah, Matthew Armstrong, Jake Cowen, Deniz Cetinkaya, Hana Burianová, Theophilus N. Akudjedu

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Purpose: This systematic review is aimed at synthesising the literature base to date on the frequency and topographical distribution of neuroanatomical changes seen on imaging following COVID-19 invasion with a focus on both the acute and chronic phases of the disease.

Methods: In this study, 8 databases were systematically searched to identify relevant articles published from December 2019 to March 2022 and supplemented with a manual reference search. Data were extracted from the included studies and narrative synthesis was employed to integrate the findings.

Results: A total of 110 studies met the inclusion criteria and comprised 119,307 participants (including 31,073 acute and 143 long COVID-19 patients manifesting neurological alterations) and controls. Considerable variability in both the localisation and nature of neuroanatomical abnormalities are noted along the continuum with a wide range of neuropathologies relating to the cerebrovascular/neurovascular system, (sub)cortical structures (including deep grey and white matter structures), brainstem, and predominant regional and/or global alterations in the cerebellum with varying degrees of spinal involvement.

Conclusion: Structural regional alterations on neuroimaging are frequently demonstrated in both the acute and chronic phases of SARS-CoV‑2 infection, particularly prevalent across subcortical, prefrontal/frontal and cortico-limbic brain areas as well as the cerebrovascular/neurovascular system. These findings contribute to our understanding of the acute and chronic effects of the virus on the nervous system and has the potential to provide information on acute and long-term treatment and neurorehabilitation decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-31
Number of pages19
JournalClinical Neuroradiology
Early online date11 Sep 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Brain
  • Coronavirus
  • Neuroimaging
  • SARS-CoV‑2
  • Spine

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