‘This was dramatic.’ New study shows blood clots in almost every organ in COVID-19 autopsies

New research from NYU revealed blood clots were found in nearly every organ in autopsies conducted on COVID-19 patients.

In an interview on CNN, Dr. Amy Rapkiewicz, a pathologist at NYU, revealed the new disturbing pattern. People who died of COVID-19 can have blood clots form in every organ in the body, and she discovered something else: Cells which cause clots were found in places they are rarely found. Megakaryocytes are cells usually only located in bone marrow and lungs. But the study showed among people who died of COVID-19, the cells were found in the heart, liver and kidneys where they can cause blood to clot, leading to complications like stroke and liver failure.

"This was dramatic," said Dr. Rapkiewicz. "Because although we might have just expected it in the lungs, we found it in almost every organ that we looked at in our autopsy study."

Dr. Vin Gupta, who practices and teaches pulmonology at the U-W, says there's been recent massive changes in the way he treats COVID-19 patients for blood clots.

"I was surprised they're being found in every organ in the body," he said. "I think that's very surprising."

He said aggressive therapies with blood thinners and even aspirin to manage clot-triggering platelets is a breakthrough, but the NYU study suggests there should be more understanding of how the virus triggers the unusual clotting reaction.

Dr. Gupta said knowing more about the clotting process can help doctors learn how to prevent potential damage before it happens.

“It’s really changed our approach clinically,” he said. “If I have a patient come in to the I.C.U. I’m immediately thinking, once I protect their airway, make sure they’re on life support, their lungs are protected, their heart is protected, the next thing I say is do they need to be on blood thinners?”