Little is known about novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, that causes the disease COVID-19. As virus is infecting more people, researchers are coming across newer complications, caused by the lethal contagion.
Formation of blood clots has been widely witnessed in a number of coronavirus patients, causing alarm that this could be the latest known complication caused by the virus.
Formation of blood clots among coronavirus patients
The 41-year-old Broadway and TV actor Nick Cordero's right leg was amputated, three weeks after he tested positive for COVID-19 after a clot obstructed blood flow.
"I have had 40-year-olds in my ICU who have clots in their fingers that look like they'll lose the finger, but there's no other reason to lose the finger than the virus", Dr Shari Brosnahan, a critical care doctor at NYU Langone told AFP.
A study by Dutch researchers, published in Thrombosis Research found that 31 percent of 184 patients suffered thrombotic complications. Thrombosis refers to formation of blood clots, known as a thrombus, within blood vessels.
Reason behind the formation of blood clots among COVID patients
In deliberations by experts at a consortium called by Dr Behnood Bikdeli, a doctor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, several reasons behind the complication, were discussed. COVID-19 generally attacks those with underlying health issues, like heart or lung disease -- which are themselves linked to higher rates of clotting.
Also, while being treated, the patient's movement is hindered, which might lead to the development of clots. Then, there is a body's immune system that might react abnormally against COVID-19, a state known as 'cytokine storm', that might lead to clotting. Or, the virus might itself cause coagulation, although there isn't any research to substantiate these claims.
Effect of formation of blood clots
Blood clots lead to a lack of blood flow in feet and hands, which might require amputation. If they make their way to heart, brain or lungs, they can cause lethal pulmonary embolisms, heart attacks, and strokes.
Development of micro clots
Formation of micro clots has been witnessed in several COVID-19 patients. While blood thinners like Heparin are effective in some patients, not all as the sizes of clots might be extremely small, according to Dr Shari Brosnahan. Autopsies of several patients have shown their lungs filled with micro clots.
According to Cecilia Mirant-Borde, an intensive care doctor at a military veterans hospital in Manhattan, lungs filled with micro clots explains why ventilators work poorly for patients with low blood oxygen. Treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome or 'wet lung' disease, was administered to such patients, but their condition didn't improve.
"It's not because the lungs are occupied with water," according to Cecilia, but the presence of micro clots, which block the circulation of oxygen. Thus, blood leaves lungs with less oxygen, than required.