COVID patients at increased risk of ‘dire outcomes’ including leg clotting and amputation

COVID-19 patients may be at an increased risk of dangerous blood clotting in their legs that could potentially lead to amputation or even death.

That’s according to the results of a small, single-center analysis published Thursday in Radiology. In the early days of the pandemic, experts with Montefiore Medical Center began noticing an uptick in patients testing positive for lower extremity arterial thrombosis through CT angiography testing.

Digging deeper into this trend, radiologist Inessa Goldman, MD, and colleagues compared 16 COVID patients with such leg issues up against a control group of 32 more without the virus. They discovered that leg clots in the coronavirus patients were significantly larger and occurred with greater frequency.

Goldman said that outcomes were often “dire,” including a 25% increased risk of amputation and 38% higher danger of death compared to the control group.

“Awareness of lower extremity arterial thrombosis as a possible complication of COVID-19 infection is important for all providers who take care of these patients, because early diagnosis is usually crucial for limb preservation in lower extremity ischemia,” she said in a statement issued by RSNA.

The team at Montefiore noted that such patients often presented with coldness, pain or discoloration in their legs. And such leg ischemia, they added, was also accompanied with respiratory distress, cough, fever, and an altered mental state.

Goldman added that it’s still unclear if patients’ delayed initial arrival or other factors may have exacerbated these outcomes. She theorized that COVID’s tie to lower extremity arterial thrombosis likely stems from several factors that include damage to the lining of the arteries and immune reactions to the virus. Another study back in April also highlighted blood clot dangers from COVID-19.

Read more of the analysis in Radiology here.