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Infectious Diseases

Updated 08 May 2020

How blood clots can cause severe Covid-19 complications

Abnormal blood clotting appears to be a significant cause of death in some Covid-19 patients.

While we know that Covid-19 can cause severe respiratory symptoms and patients can die because of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), scientists are investigating what else can cause a fatal outcome in Covid-19 patients.

There  have been reports on immune systems that go into overdrive, causing serious complications. Now, however, it appears that blood clots in the lungs can also cause serious outcomes.

A study, led by clinician-scientists at RCSI University of Health Scientists, found that Irish Covid 19 patients experienced more severe complications and even death, because of blood clotting in the lungs.

This study was published in the British Journal of Haematology and was covered in a press release.

Blood clotting linked with worse Covid-19 prognosis

The research found that this abnormal blood clotting in patients was more likely to lead to serious complications and admissions to the ICU.

"Our novel findings demonstrate that Covid-19 is associated with a unique type of blood clotting disorder that is primarily focused within the lungs and which undoubtedly contributes to the high levels of mortality seen in patients with Covid-19," stated Professor James O'Donnell, Director of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, RCSI and Consultant Haematologist in the National Coagulation Centre in St James's Hospital, Dublin.

It is not only pneumonia that fills the small sacs in the lungs with fluid that ultimately causes complications, but also hundreds of tiny blood clots, which is unique to Covid-19.

Researchers are not yet sure about the exact cause of the clotting, but agree that it’s critical to understand why they form, as this can lead to more effective treatments to alleviate the situation.

Not only is clotting a risk for the lungs, but might also increase the patient’s risk of a heart attack or stroke as a result of Covid-19. This complication can then lead to death.

"Further studies will be required to investigate whether different blood-thinning treatments may have a role in selected high-risk patients in order to reduce the risk of clot formation," Professor AlsoO'Donnell said in the press release.

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