04 May 2020

COVID-19 is causing a “unique” blood clotting disorder, an Irish haematologist has warned.

The novel coagulopathy, which has been called pulmonary intravascular coagulopathy (PIC), mainly affects the lungs and “undoubtedly” contributes to high death rates, according to Professor James O’Donnell, director of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology and a consultant at St James's Hospital, Dublin.

A study led by Prof O’Donnell found that Caucasian people with severe COVID‑19 displayed signs of abnormal blood clotting, leading to many micro-clots within the lungs, hampering their ability to absorb oxygen into the blood.

The Irish study has been reported in the British Journal of Haematology. The study involved 83 patients, 50 of whom recovered fully and were discharged from hospital, and 13 who had died.

The researchers say that emerging evidence is also linking PIC to increased risk of stroke and heart attack.

Professor O’Donnell said: “Understanding how these micro-clots are being formed within the lung is critical so that we can develop more effective treatments for our patients, particularly those in high risk groups.

“Further studies will be required to investigate whether different blood thinning treatments may have a role in selected high risk patients in order to reduce the risk of clot formation.”

Source: Fogarty H, Townsend L, Ni Cheallaigh C, Bergin C, Martin-Loeches I, Browne P, Bacon CL, Gaule R, Gillett A, Byrne M, Ryan K, O’Connell N, O’Sullivan JM, Conlan N, O’Donnell JS (2020) “COVID-19 Coagulopathy in Caucasian patients”, Br J Haematol, doi:  10.1111/bjh.16749


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