Lake Area doctor assisting in Duke University-led COVID-19 blood clot research
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - COVID-19 has, no doubt, put a big strain on healthcare systems nationwide, and the latest surge comes as research into the virus and its symptoms are still ongoing.
Just over one year into the pandemic, health experts and scientists are still learning the long and short-term effects the novel virus can have on people who overcome infection.
However, there’s one symptom of the virus, in particular, that’s left many doctors with a lot of questions.
Early in the pandemic, doctors found that many of their patients who succumbed to the COVID-19 virus had blood clots throughout their bodies, “including in their smallest blood vessels,” according to the NIH. Having blood clots can lead to other life-threatening effects such as “organ damage to heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism,” according to an NIH statement.
”I don’t think a lot has changed about symptoms,” Pulmonologist Dr. Tashfeen Mahmood said. “This comes down to the basic question: why people are sicker this time?”
Prevention remains the biggest long-term goal for doctors on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight.
“And the leader is Duke University. So, they approached us seeing that the numbers were high in our area,” Dr. Mahmood said.
Dr. Tashfeen Mahmood is a Critical Care Pulmonologist at Christus Ochsner St. Patrick Hosptial. Mahmood was selected as a principal investigator as part of a long-term study to uncover the growing trend of blood clots in COVID patients.
”We really don’t know what happens to people who are discharged from the hospital,” Mahmood said. “When you’re in the ICU, your risk for clot formation is very high, but once you have COVID, your risk of forming those clots are much higher. Once you leave the hospital, the risk still remains higher.”
In terms of treating COVID-19 patients, he said within the past year, doctors have had to answer many questions, but one inquiry remains paramount.
”That was the question - should we give blood thinners to those patients?” Dr. Mahmood said. “Because we have seen some of the folks going from hospital to LTACH or rehab or going home and coming back with a stroke or a heart attack. That is where the study originates from.”
He said currently, doctors are not providing patients with blood thinners until more research is conducted.
“Right now, the custom is not to put these patients on blood thinners at all, but if the study is able to answer that question, it will be helpful for the future,” Mahmood said.
At the onset of the pandemic, doctors and scientists at dozens of hospitals and universities around the globe were seeking answers while trying to measure virus patients’ risks for clots and testing drugs to treat or prevent them.
With the virus still in its infancy stage, Mahmood said along with doctors advocating for the effectiveness of the vaccine, gathering research has also been a challenge.
Doctors are hoping to recruit 5,000 patients nationwide to complete the research.
Researchers will assess patients within 45 days of being hospitalized to see if they “develop any thrombotic complications heart attack, stroke, blood clots in major veins and arteries, deep vein and pulmonary thrombosis.”
This NIH trial, which is being overseen by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is working in conjunction with Duke University.
Some hospitals have found 40% of deaths in COVID-19 patients are from blood clots. Dr. Mahmood said, locally, that studies have shown that in real-world incidents, about 4% to 10% of recovering COVID patients are exhibiting traits of blood clot formation.
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