How to carry out and interpret EEG recordings in COVID-19 patients in ICU?

Philippe Gélisse, Andrea O. Rossetti, Pierre Genton, Arielle Crespel, Peter W. Kaplan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


There are questions and challenges regarding neurologic complications in COVID-19 patients. EEG is a safe and efficient tool for the evaluation of brain function, even in the context of COVID-19. However, EEG technologists should not be put in danger if obtaining an EEG does not significantly advance diagnosis or change management in the patient. Not every neurologic problem stems from a primary brain injury: confusion, impaired consciousness that evolves to stupor and coma, and headaches are frequent in hypercapnic/hypoxic encephalopathies. In patients with chronic pulmonary disorders, acute symptomatic seizures have been reported in acute respiratory failure in 6%. The clinician should be aware of the various EEG patterns in hypercapnic/hypoxic and anoxic (post-cardiac arrest syndrome) encephalopathies as well as encephalitides. In this emerging pandemic of infectious disease, reduced EEG montages using single-use subdermal EEG needle electrodes may be used in comatose patients. A full 10–20 EEG complement of electrodes with an ECG derivation remains the standard. Under COVID-19 conditions, an expedited study that adequately screens for generalized status epilepticus, most types of regional status epilepticus, encephalopathy or sleep may serve for most clinical questions, using simplified montages may limit the risk of infection to EEG technologists. We recommend noting whether the patient is undergoing or has been placed prone, as well as noting the body and head position during the EEG recording (supine versus prone) to avoid overinterpretation of respiratory, head movement, electrode, muscle or other artifacts. There is slight elevation of intracranial pressure in the prone position. In non-comatose patients, the hyperventilation procedure should be avoided. At present, non-specific EEG findings and abnormalities should not be considered as being specific for COVID-19 related encephalopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2023-2031
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Coma
  • EEG
  • ICU
  • Prone position

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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