In a new study, researchers found that hospitalized COVID-19 patients face an increased risk of developing dangerous blood clots.
They found 23% of COVID-19 patients in an intensive care unit (ICU) developed a blood clot in the leg, known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The odds of a clot are highest for the most critically ill patients.
The research was conducted by a team at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria.
Of great concern are blood clots in the legs that can break away and travel to the lungs. This is a life-threatening condition known as pulmonary embolism (PE).
Nearly 4% of patients not admitted to the ICU developed a pulmonary embolism.
And the team found a very high PE risk of 14% in patients treated at an intensive care unit.
According to the American Heart Association, DVT and PE are each a form of venous thromboembolism, or VTE, as both refer to a blood clot that originates in a vein.
VTE is estimated to affect between 300,000 and 600,000 Americans every year, the AHA notes. It is most frequently triggered by surgery, cancer, hospitalization, or long-term immobilization.
To examine VTE risk related to COVID-19, the team analyzed the findings of 66 studies, involving roughly 28,000 COVID-19 patients.
On average, the COVID-19 patients were about 63 years old, and six in 10 were men. About one-fifth had been admitted to an ICU.
Early in the pandemic, it became clear that blood clot risk seemed elevated in patients with COVID-19 compared to other diseases.
To prevent clotting, doctors worldwide intensified the dosing of blood thinners for COVID-19 patients.
But this created another potential problem since blood thinners increase the risk of bleeding.
The researchers hope their review will offer clinicians more insight into clotting risk profiles, offering guidance as to which patients truly need preventive clot treatment.
One author of the study is Dr. Cihan Ay.
The study is published in Research and Practice in Thrombosis and Haemostasis.
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