Transcranial Doppler Ultrasound Evidence of Active Cerebral Embolization in COVID-19

Ayush Batra, Jeffrey R. Clark, Katie LaHaye, Nathan A. Shlobin, Steven C. Hoffman, Zachary S. Orban, Katharine Colton, Jane E. Dematte, Farzaneh A. Sorond, Igor J. Koralnik, Eric M. Liotta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: To report six consecutive patients with confirmed coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) who underwent Transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasonography evaluation for cerebral microemboli in the setting of suspected or confirmed acute ischemic stroke. Methods: Patient data were obtained from medical records from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL between May and June 2020. All patients with confirmed COVID-19 who underwent clinical TCD ultrasonography for microemboli detection were included. Results: A total of eight TCD studies were performed in six patients with COVID-19 (4 men and 2 women, median age 65±5), four with confirmed ischemic stroke and two with refractory encephalopathy. Microemboli were detected in three male patients, two patients had suffered a confirmed ischemic stroke and one who developed prolonged encephalopathy. Microemboli of varying intensity were identified in multiple vascular territories in two patients, and microemboli persisted despite therapeutic anticoagulation in a third patient. Of the three patients without evidence of microemboli on TCD ultrasonography, two patients had suffered a confirmed ischemic stroke, while one remained with refractory encephalopathy. Conclusions: TCD ultrasonography for microemboli detection identified three patients with confirmed COVID-19 with evidence of cerebral arterial microemboli, including one who was therapeutically anticoagulated. TCD ultrasonography provides a non-invasive method for evaluating cerebral microemboli in patients with COVID-19 and may be useful in assessing response to treatment in cases with suspected or confirmed disorders of hypercoagulability. Further studies investigating the prevalence of cerebral microemboli and associated risk factors are needed to characterize their pathogenic mechanism and guide therapeutic interventions in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105542
JournalJournal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Cerebrovascular disease/Stroke
  • Embolism
  • Ultrasound
  • Viral infections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Rehabilitation
  • Surgery


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