Optimal prophylactic and therapeutic management of thromboembolic disease in patients with COVID-19 remains a major challenge for clinicians. The aim of this study was to define the incidence of thrombotic and haemorrhagic complications in critically ill patients with COVID-19. In addition, we sought to characterise coagulation profiles using thromboelastography and explore possible biological differences between patients with and without thrombotic complications.
We conducted a multicentre retrospective observational study evaluating all the COVID-19 patients received in four intensive care units (ICUs) of 4 tertiary hospitals in the United Kingdom between 15 March 2020 and 23 April 2020. Clinical characteristics, laboratory data, thromboelastography profiles and clinical outcome data were evaluated between patients with and without thrombotic complications.
A total of 187 patients were included. Their median (interquartile (IQR)) age was 57 (49-64) years and 124 (66.3%) patients were male. Eighty-one (43.3%) patients experienced one or more clinically relevant thrombotic complications, which were mainly pulmonary emboli (n=42 (22.5%)). Arterial embolic complications were reported in 25 (13.3%) patients. ICU length of stay was longer in patients with thrombotic complications when compared with those without. Fifteen (8.0%) patients experienced haemorrhagic complications, of which nine (4.8%) were classified as major bleeding. Thromboelastography demonstrated a hypercoagulable profile in patients tested but lacked discriminatory value between those with and without thrombotic complications. Patients who experienced thrombotic complications had higher D-dimer, ferritin, troponin and white cell count levels at ICU admission compared with those that did not.
Critically ill patients with COVID-19 experience high rates of venous and arterial thrombotic complications. The rates of bleeding may be higher than previously reported and re-iterate the need for randomized trials to better understand the risk-benefit ratio of different anticoagulation strategies.