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Blood thickness may predict risk of dying from COVID-19, study finds

Hospitalized patients with greater blood viscosity had a higher death rate

COVID-19 virus in blood concept
Photo (c) Radoslav Zilinsky - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital explored how blood viscosity (or thickness) may affect COVID-19 patients’ risk of death. According to their findings, patients are more likely to die from coronavirus-related complications when their blood is thicker. 

“This study demonstrates the importance of checking for blood viscosity in COVID-19 patients early in hospital admission, which is easily obtained through routine lab work,” said researcher Dr. Robert Rosenson. 

Long-term health risks

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 5,600 COVID-19 patients from six hospitals in the Mount Sinai Health System from February 2020, through November 2021. All of the participants had tested positive for COVID-19, and the team tracked their health care outcomes until they were either discharged or had passed away. 

The team found a clear link between high blood thickness and an increased risk of death among COVID-19 patients. The risk of death was higher than 30% when looking at small vessel circulation, and it surpassed 60% when measuring blood thickness in the arteries. 

The researchers explained that the COVID-19 virus affects the way certain proteins in the blood respond to inflammation. Because the virus creates more inflammation, it makes our blood thicker and affects the way it flows throughout the body.

Patients’ blood viscosity isn’t typically measured directly when they are admitted to the hospital, but measuring hematocrit and globulins can help health care professionals estimate blood thickness. The researchers say it's an important thing to measure when evaluating COVID-19 patients. 

Moving forward, the team hopes more hospitals start paying attention to COVID-19 patients’ blood viscosity so doctors can identify those with a higher risk of dying. This can ensure that consumers get the treatments they need.

“We are currently investigating the effects of therapeutic heparin to reduce the risk of complications during acute COVID-19 infections, which may greatly benefit those with blood viscosity,” said Dr. Rosenson. 

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