Upper Extremity Neuropathies Following Severe COVID-19 Infection: A Multicenter Case Series

Neill Y. Li, Nikhil K. Murthy, Collin K. Franz, Robert J. Spinner, Allen T. Bishop, Peter M. Murray, Alexander Y. Shin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The purpose of the study is to examine presentation, injury patterns, and clinical course, for COVID-19-related peripheral nerve injury following mechanical ventilation. Methods: A multicenter retrospective study of patients with COVID-19 complicated by acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) that required mechanical ventilation was undertaken. Patient records were reviewed for intensive care unit and intubation characteristics, prone or lateral decubitus positioning, and the onset of neuropathy diagnosis. Results: Between September 2020 and January 2022, 11 patients were diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, including 9 with brachial plexopathy following COVID-19 infection. Each patient developed ARDS requiring mechanical ventilation for a median of 39 days. Six patients (54.5%) underwent prone positioning and 1 lateral decubitus. Neuropathies involved 5 brachial pan-plexopathies, 2 incomplete brachial plexopathies, 2 lower trunk plexopathies, 1 radial neuropathy, and 1 bilateral ulnar neuropathy. At a mean follow-up of 10.2 months, patients with brachial pan-plexopathies demonstrated signs of reinnervation proximally, and 1 resolved to a radial mononeuropathy; however, the majority have demonstrated minimal clinical improvements. Conclusions: Our series demonstrates that peripheral neuropathies and especially brachial plexopathies have occurred following mechanical ventilation for ARDS-related COVID-19 infections. Contrary to prior COVID-19 studies, only 54.5% of these patients underwent prone positioning. Aside from a traumatic disturbance of prone positioning, the increased incidence of neuropathy may involve an atraumatic effect of COVID-19 via direct invasion of nerves, autoantibody targeting of nervous tissue, or hypercoagulation-induced microthrombotic angiopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e391-e397
JournalWorld neurosurgery
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Brachial plexus
  • COVID-19
  • IV
  • Prone positioning
  • Upper extremity neuropathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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