OAK BROOK, Ill. – There are many symptoms scientists say are part of the coronavirus pandemic, some more serious than others. One threat of having COVID-19 are blood clots developing in the pulmonary arteries, which carry blood to the heart and lungs. New research now suggests the virus is also creating life-threatening blood clots in the legs.
The study in the journal Radiology says these clots prevent oxygenated blood from reaching lower parts of the body and can lead to leg amputations.
Devastating effect on seniors
During the pandemic’s peak in New York City, Inessa Goldman of Montefiore Medical Center says patients were arriving at the hospital with cold, painful, and discolored legs. These patients tested positive for blood clots in the lower extremities. Many also exhibited respiratory distress, cough, fever, and cognitive abnormalities. The number of patients with all these symptoms prompted researchers to examine a possible link between COVID-19 and leg clotting.
To study this restricted blood flow, the patients underwent computed tomography (CT) angiograms. The test uses a special dye to produce in depth pictures of the blood vessels and map blood flow. Of the patients examined, 16 had COVID-19 and 32 did not. The patients testing positive had an average age of 70, while those without were around 71 years-old.
The CT angiography tests revealed every coronavirus patient had at least one blood clot. Only 69 percent of those without the virus had a clot discovered. Goldman says blood clots in COVID-19 patients are also larger and more likely to affect arteries located higher up in the legs. Tragically, limb amputation and death are more common in these patients.
“We found that arterial thrombosis associated with COVID-19 infection was characterized by dire outcomes, namely strikingly increased rates of amputation and death, which in our series were 25% and 38%, respectively,” Goldman explains in a media release.
“For comparison, the rate of both amputation and death was only 3% among controls,” she adds. “It is unclear whether the patients’ concurrent COVID-19-related pneumonia, the virulence of the COVID-19-related clotting disorder or delayed initial arrival to the hospital contributed to these outcomes.”
Blood clotting remains a mystery
Although the exact nature of the link between COVID-19 and lower extremity blood clots is unknown, researchers believe it is likely due to a combination of factors. These factors include things like more blood clotting throughout the body, damage to the lining of arteries, and the immune system’s reaction to COVID-19.
“Awareness of lower extremity arterial thrombosis as a possible complication of COVID-19 infection is important for all providers who take care of these patients, because early diagnosis is usually crucial for limb preservation in lower extremity ischemia,” Goldman says.