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Coronavirus victims are facing a new danger that may occur even after respiratory symptoms fade and infection from the virus clears.
Doctors are beginning to notice a troubling blood-clotting phenomenon, which is occurring more frequently in patients who have the virus. These clots are also being discovered in younger coronavirus patients and can result in sudden strokes or death.
“There’s something about this virus that’s exaggerated that to the nth degree,” said Mitchell Levy, chief of pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine at the Warren Albert School of Medicine, according to Bloomberg. “We’re seeing clotting in a way in this illness that we have not seen in the past.”
He added that blood clotting is “probably the most important thing that’s emerged over the last perhaps month or two."
Clots may form and damage several types of organs in the body. They include the heart, liver, or in patients’ arterial catheters and filters that support failing kidneys.
However, blood clotting that appears in the lungs is thought to be the most severe in coronavirus patients. It can impede blood flow and impact infected patients who already have difficulty breathing due to the virus -- previously believed to be a typical respiratory disease.
Margaret Pisani, an associate professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine says clots in the lungs are likely what’s causing coronavirus patients who may appear well to suddenly “fall off the ledge” and develop a blood-oxygen deficiency, the paper reported.
Doctors had previously attributed lung damage to pneumonia, but they are now looking at clotting as well.
Dr. Hooman Poor, a lung specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, noticed blood was not flowing well through the lungs of 14 patients on ventilators, which he determined was due to clotting.
"I feel like all these patients have blood clots in their lungs," Poor said last month, according to the Reuters.
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine last week found that five people between the age of 33 to 49 who had strokes, also tested positive for the coronavirus. They were all treated for large-vessel blockages.
On April 13, a study published by researchers in the Netherlands found that 31 percent of intensive-care unit coronavirus patients they observed had a complication associated with clotting. The study described the findings as "remarkably high."
The large arterial lung clots can also put an overwhelming strain on the heart, which may result in cardiac arrest. Clotting may also disrupt blood flow for coronavirus patients on ventilators, said Edwin van Beek, chair of clinical radiology at the University of Edinburgh’s Queen’s Medical Research Institute, according to Bloomberg.
“That’s quite frightening when you think of it because we didn’t know what we’re up against until we were in a later stage," Frank Rasulo, a physician in neurocritical care in Italy told the paper.