Monday, May 18: Critically ill COVID-19 patients face a high risk of developing kidney failure, stroke, and other complications associated with blood clot formation, according to a study which suggests that early tests may help save those severely affected by the disease.
The study, published in the Journal of American College of Surgeons, builds on growing evidence that COVID-19-infected patients are highly predisposed to developing blood clots.
In the study, the scientists, including those from the University of Colorado in the US, linked blood clotting measurements with actual patient outcomes.
The researchers said they are also currently conducting a randomised clinical trial of a drug that breaks down blood clots in COVID-19-infected patients.
“This is an early step on the road to discovering treatments to prevent some of the complications that come with this disease,” said Franklin Wright, lead author of the study from the University of Colorado.
According to the study, patients who are critically ill, regardless of cause, can develop a condition known as disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).
In this condition, the blood of these patients initially forms many clots in small blood vessels, the scientists said.
The body’s natural clotting factors can form too much clot, or eventually not be able to effectively form any clot, leading to issues of both excessive clotting and excessive bleeding, they explained.
However, in patients with COVID-19, the researchers said, the clotting appears to be particularly severe.
Citing COVID-19 case studies in China and from different parts of the world, they said the clots in these patients do not appear to dissipate.
Assessing the condition further among patients, the scientists saw the potential of using a specialised coagulation test to examine clotting issues in COVID-19 patients.
One such test they mentioned is the thromboelastography (TEG), which is a whole blood assay that provides a broad picture of how an individual patient’s blood forms clots.
This test, according to the researchers, also reveals how long clotting takes in a patient, how strong these are, and how soon the clots break down.
TEG is highly specialised and used primarily by surgeons and anesthesiologists to evaluate the efficiency of blood clotting, but is not widely used in other clinical settings, the study noted.
“The COVID pandemic is opening doors for multidisciplinary collaboration so trauma acute care surgeons and intensivists can bring the tools they use in their day-to-day lives and apply them in the critical care setting to new problems,” Wright said.
In the study, the researchers analysed 44 patients treated for COVID-19 infection between March 22 and April 20.