Does coronavirus cause deadly blood clots too?

Does coronavirus cause deadly blood clots too? Doctors report rise in COVID-19 patients dying of heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms despite being put on blood thinners

  • Between 20 and 40% of coronavirus patients at Emory University are developing blood clots, doctors there have said 
  • Coronavirus’s protein spike may let it attach to blood vessels and wreak havoc on them as well as lung cells 
  • Viral particles attacking blood vessels may trigger ‘hypercoagual states’ that lead to clotting 
  • Doctors are now closely watching blood work for signs of clots and putting most hospitalized and discharged patients on blood thinners  
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Doctors are reporting a disturbing pattern of coronavirus patients dying of mysterious blood clots emerging in US hospitals. 

Between 20 and 40 percent of COVID-19 patients at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, have developed blood clots – even after being put on anticoagulants, Dr Craig Coopersmith told The Hour. 

It comes amid broader reports that the respiratory virus is affecting not only the lungs but the heart, intestines, liver, kidneys and even the brain. 

A Brooklyn heart surgeon told that clots are probably responsible for a ‘large amount’ of the coronavirus deaths his hospital is seeing too, and said they may even be responsible for patients dying after apparent recovery and release from hospitals.  

Emerging evidence suggests that coronavirus may attack blood vessels and cause blood clots that trigger heart attack or pulmonary embolisms in patients – despite treatment with blood thinners  (file)

‘One of the things that is being learned about COVID is how much it produces coagulation problems – i.e. thrombosis (blood clots) found in both large vessels as well as the microvasculature,’ Dr Paul Saunders, a physician at Maimonides Medical Center, told via Twitter direct message. 

‘That’s been found in multiple sites in the body – for example, blood clots in the legs small clots all over the the lungs, as well as large pulmonary emboli.’  

COVID-19 has a unique weapon that allows it to attack the heart. 

‘With COVID specifically, what you see that you don’t with the flu, is because under a microscope, coronavirus has all these spikes coming out of it, and those spikes are little proteins that are looking for receptors on the cells that they attach onto,’ Dr Robert Bonow, a professor of cardiology at Northwestern University told in a recent interview. 

‘It’s specifically looking for receptors in the lungs, but those same receptors sit on blood vessels, so it can attach on the lungs but also on blood vessels.’ 

Once they dock onto these blood vessel cells, the viral particles can trigger damage to these as well as to heart muscle, Dr Bonow says. 

They can trigger ‘hypercoagual states,’ causing blood clots that lead to heart attacks.   

The first evidence that the virus may be dangerous to the cardiovascular system came out of China, which, as the origin of coronavirus, has been the bellwether for the disease’s patterns. 

Nearly 20 percent of 416 hospitalized coronavirus patients in one study conducted there showed signs of heart damage. 

As the coronavirus death toll continues to climb in the US, doctors are closely monitoring patients for signs of blood clots they suspect may be the cause of death for many 

And Dr Saunders says that, in his patients in New York City, it’s often blood clots that are responsible for heart attacks. 

‘Heart attacks are happening from different mechanisms,’ he said. 

‘Instead of the traditional plaque rupture that we see commonly, [heart attacks] are occurring due to pure thrombosis of the blood vessel. 

‘A large amount of the mortality we’re seeing is probably related to thrombosis issues, on top of the obvious respiratory problems.’ 

In light of this, Maimonides – and most medical centers, Dr Saunders said – are now putting patients on blood thinners while they’re hospitalized and even sending them home on the drugs. 

But the problem persists, sometimes killing patients both in and outside of hospitals. 

‘[One] issue with patients that are discharged is whether they are dying from acute pulmonary emboli,’ Dr Saunders says. 

‘Many patients develop deep vein thromboses and pulmonary embolisms (PE’s) have been seen frequently. 

Dr Saunders and physicians across the US are not keeping a close eye on patients’ levels of D-dimers.

D-dimers are protein fragments that are the result of the breakdown of blood clots. 

In someone healthy, only trace amounts of these protein pieces show up in blood work. 

High levels of D-dimers signal that someone may have one ore more blood clots. 

Levels are ‘very abnormal in lots of patients’ fighting coronavirus, Dr Saunders said.  

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