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Rheumatic manifestations of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Ciaffi, Jacopo1
  • Meliconi, Riccardo1, 2
  • Ruscitti, Piero3
  • Berardicurti, Onorina3
  • Giacomelli, Roberto3
  • Ursini, Francesco1, 2
  • 1 IRCCS Istituto Ortopedico Rizzoli (IOR), via Pupilli 1, Bologna, 40136, Italy , Bologna (Italy)
  • 2 University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy , Bologna (Italy)
  • 3 University of L’Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy , L’Aquila (Italy)
Published Article
BMC Rheumatology
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Oct 28, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s41927-020-00165-0
Springer Nature


BackgroundDifferent proportions of musculoskeletal or autoimmune manifestations associated with COVID-19 have been reported in literature. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis with the aim of assessing the prevalence of rheumatic manifestations in patients affected by COVID-19, as initial symptom or during disease course.MethodsA database search was run on May 18th, 2020, using two distinct strategies. We were interested in the percentage of symptoms of potential rheumatologic interest observed in large population studies of COVID-19 cases, and in identifying uncommon autoimmune disorders described in patients with COVID-19. For manifestations individually reported, a meta-analysis was performed taking into consideration the proportion of COVID-19 patients presenting the symptom.ResultsEighty eight original articles were included in the systematic review and 51 in the meta-analysis. We found pooled estimates of 19% for muscle pain and 32% for fatigue as initial symptom of COVID-19 presentation and, respectively, of 16 and 36% during the disease course. Only one article discussed arthralgia as unique symptom. Additionally, we found that vasculitis, chilblains, presence of autoantibodies commonly found in patients with rheumatic diseases, or autoimmune haematological and neurological disorders have all been reported in patients with COVID-19.ConclusionsIn conclusion, our review and meta-analysis emphasises that symptoms potentially leading to rheumatologic referral are common in patients with COVID-19. Therefore, COVID-19 is a new differential diagnosis to bear in mind when evaluating patients with musculoskeletal symptoms and rheumatologists might play a crucial role in identifying COVID-19 cases in early phases of the illness.

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