Prescribed blood thinners can help reduce hospitalizations related to COVID-19

Oct. 4, 2021

A University of Minnesota Medical School-led study finds that having a protocol to use blood thinners for COVID-19 patients reduces patient COVID-19 mortality by almost half.

Officials at the National Institutes of Health have reported that many individuals with COVID-19 develop abnormal blood clots from high inflammation, which can lead to serious health complications and death. To find ways to decrease clotting related to COVID-19, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Basel University in Switzerland looked at reducing hospitalizations by using prescribed blood thinners.

“We know that COVID-19 causes blood clots that can kill patients,” said lead author Sameh Hozayen, MD, MSC, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “But, do blood thinners save lives in COVID-19? Blood thinners are medications prescribed to prevent blood clots in patients with a prior blood clot in their lungs or legs. They also prevent blood clots in the brain secondary to abnormal heart rhythms, like atrial fibrillation. Blood thinners are the standard of treatment in these diseases, which is why we looked at data to see if it impacted hospitalizations related to COVID-19.” 

“We already know that overwhelmed hospitals have a higher risk for death among their patients, so reducing hospitalization may have a positive impact during a COVID-19 surge,” Hozayen said.

The study, published in Lancet’s Open Access EClinical Medicine, found that patients on blood thinners before having COVID-19 were admitted less often to the hospital, despite being older and having more chronic medical conditions than their peers. Blood thinners — regardless of whether or not they are being used before being infected with COVID-19 or started when admitted to the hospital for treatment of COVID-19 — reduce deaths by almost half, according to the study’s findings. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients, therefore, can benefit from blood thinners, regardless of the type or dose of the medication used.

“Unfortunately, about half of patients who are being prescribed blood thinners for blood clots in their legs, lungs, abnormal heart rhythms or other reasons, do not take them. By increasing adherence for people already prescribed blood thinners, we can potentially reduce the bad effects of COVID-19,” Hozayen said.

​​The U of M research group is currently working with research groups elsewhere to learn how blood thinners may impact patients in less-invested healthcare systems and in different patient populations. 

U of M release

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