Autopsies find Black COVID-19 victims’ lungs filled with blood clots

Discovery might be why African Americans suffer more from COVID-19, study says

“COVID-19 is the most thrombotic (clot-producing) disease we’ve ever seen in our lifetime,” Dr. Alex Spyropoulos, a clot specialist and professor at Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in New York, told the Associated Press this week.

These clots appear to be worse in African Americans with COVID-19, a study finds, and might be why Blacks are suffering more than white patients.

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A team at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine performed autopsies on 10 African Americans who died from COVID-19. The decedents were men and women ages 44–78, "with cause of death attributed to COVID-19, reflective of the dominant demographic of deaths following COVID-19 diagnosis in New Orleans," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

All 10 decedents had at least one underlying condition — high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and obesity — known to worsen the infection.

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The LSU team discovered the lungs of all 10 people were full of blood clots.

"We found that the small vessels and capillaries in the lungs were obstructed by blood clots and associated hemorrhage that significantly contributed to decompensation and death in these patients," Dr. Richard Vander Heide, head of pathology at the medical school, said in a statement.

As the AP wrote: “Blood clots that can cause strokes, heart attacks and dangerous blockages in the legs and lungs are increasingly being found in COVID-19 patients, including some children. Even tiny clots that can damage tissue throughout the body have been seen in hospitalized patients and in autopsies, confounding doctors’ understanding of what was once considered mainly a respiratory infection.’

The patients being affected might be predisposed to blood clotting, Vander Heide told CNN. "There could be all kinds of genetic factors," he added.

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Another study from New Orleans, also published Wednesday but in the New England Journal of Medicine, found a disproportionate number of Covid-19 hospital patients were African American. Although 31% of the usual patient population at the Ochsner Health system are Black, 77% of those treated for coronavirus were Black, the study states. And 70% of those who died were Black.

“Black patients had higher prevalences of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease than white patients,” Dr. Eboni Price-Haywood and others at Ochsner wrote.

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