Alarmed as COVID-19 patients’ blood thickened, New York doctors try new treatments

J Mocco, MD, Director of Mount Sinai's Cerebrovascular Center, David Reich, MD and President and COO of The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Hooman Poor, MD, an ICU doctor pose together outside the hospital in Manhattan, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

As the novel coronavirus spread through New York City in late March, doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital noticed something strange happening to patients’ blood.

Signs of blood thickening and clotting were being detected in different organs by doctors from different specialities. This would turn out to be one of the alarming ways the virus ravages the body, as doctors there and elsewhere were starting to realize.

At Mount Sinai, nephrologists noticed kidney dialysis catheters getting plugged with clots. Pulmonologists monitoring COVID-19 patients on mechanical ventilators could see portions of lungs were oddly bloodless. Neurosurgeons confronted a surge in their usual caseload of strokes due to blood clots, the age of victims skewing younger, with at least half testing positive for the virus.

As colleagues from various specialities pooled their observations, they developed a new treatment protocol. Patients now receive high doses of a blood-thinning drug even before any evidence of clotting appears.

The new protocol will not be used on certain high-risk patients because blood thinners can lead to bleeding in the brain and other organs.

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