Blood clot issue found in young COVID-19 patients at University Hospital

Ursula Pari

SAN ANTONIO – University hospital is seeing a troubling trend when it comes to young people hospitalized with coronavirus.

Even without having a predisposition for stroke, younger patients are still at risk for developing a deadly blood clot.

So far, no one with coronavirus has suffered a deadly stroke at University Hospital, bu nearly all of them have had some form of clot in their arms and legs, said Dr. Diego Maselli, associate professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary diseases and critical care at UT Health San Antonio.

Maselli said the trend is happening at other hospitals other in the world.

“Not only in the arms and legs, but also there’s reports of clots in the lung. You know, pulmonary embolisms and also stroke as well,” said Maselli, who is also director of respiratory care at University Health System.

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And it’s happening in people under the age of 50 who have not pre-existing conditions that would indicate a clotting risk like diabetes.

“They’re healthy. They don’t have a lot of complications or medical conditions. So, it’s a bit unusual to see these complications in young, young people,” Maselli said.

The new development has changed the protocol for COVID-19 treatment at University Hospital.

Now when a patient comes in, he or she is screened for the coronavirus and for clotting. Ultrasounds are performed at admitting and throughout the patient’s treatment at the hospital. There is also a blood test that checks for D-dimer levels that would indicate a clotting issue already showing up in body. That way, even if there’s no clot presently, doctors can be on the alert that this patient is at higher risk.

“Sometimes in these patients, it’s very elevated. And when it’s very, very elevated, that will prompt us to be more … proactive of trying to find these clots on the lookout for it,” Maselli said.

University Hospital has developed a protocol for anti-coagulation drugs like heparin, which is given where it can be offered as a sort of prevention therapy.

Local researchers studying heart damage in COVID-19 patients

The blood clotting trend is documented in a New England Journal of Medicine article that warns the most serious cases of stroke were the result of the patient waiting too long to get medical care because of fear of the pandemic. That gives younger, healthier patients more opportunity to develop the sort of complications that doctors are working to avoid.

University Hospital wants you to know there should be no fear of contracting COVID-19 at the hospital if you are infection-free, but if you are a coronavirus patient, you will be immediately screened for blood clots and begin treatment.

For more information about going to the hospital with a suspected infection, click here.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.

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