Intensive care unit doctors are witnessing an unprecedented number of blood clots cases in COVID-19 patients. The mysterious phenomenon of blood clot cases among coronavirus patients is baffling ICU doctors, and many of them have resorted to using low doses of blood thinners on patients to prevent further health complications. Doctors also believe the puzzling blood clots could be responsible for the high rates of death among coronavirus patients.
Blood clots cause stroke and heart attack among other cardiovascular conditions, and ICU doctors fear that coronavirus patients may develop these diseases while still being treated for COVID-19.
“The number of clotting problems I’m seeing in the ICU [intensive care unit], all related to COVID-19, is unprecedented,” said Dr. Jeffrey Laurence, a hematologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.
To make matters worse, some COVID-19 patients developed blood clots in their legs even though they are on blood thinners; while those on dialysis machines suffered serious trouble when their clotted blood clogged the tubing of the dialysis machines. Blood clots have equally been found in the lungs of these patients as well as in their brains, raising risks of stroke and death.
Numerous autopsies of many deceased COVID-19 patients revealed abundant blood clots in their lungs where coroners had been expecting to find evidence of pneumonia and damaged air sacs.
“The problem we are having is that while we understand that there is a clot, we don’t yet understand why there is a clot,” said Lewis Kaplan, a University of Pennsylvania physician and head of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. “We don’t know. And therefore, we are scared.”
A finding published in the journal Thrombosis Research, a Netherlands publication, found that more than 30% of 184 COVID-19 patients in an ICU developed blood clotting. A cardiovascular medicine fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Dr. Behnood Bikdeli, said that number is very “alarming”.
Considering that coronavirus attacks the human lungs more as a respiratory disease, doctors are at a loss of why patients are having blood clots. Some doctors opine that the increased rate of clots among patients could be due to an overactive immune system, while others believe that hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases could be responsible for the problem.
“One of the theories is that once the body is so engaged in a fight against an invader, the body starts consuming the clotting factors, which can result in either blood clots or bleeding,” said Harlan Krumholz, a cardiac specialist at the Yale-New Haven Hospital Center. “In Ebola, the balance was more toward bleeding. In COVID-19, it’s more blood clots.”
Scientists are beginning to call the mysterious blood clots a “hemostatic derangement” and have called for health experts to research whether blood thinners could be helpful to COVID-19 patients the way things stand.