With the COVID-19 delta variant fueling hospitalizations again, doctors are continuing to weigh the best treatments for patients before they're lungs fill and they've run out of options.
A newly published study suggests that for some patients, a full dose of a blood thinner may improve their chances of avoiding a ventilator.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have identified a possible treatment for patients who are moderately sick with COVID-19. The therapy focuses on clots that are thought to form in the large and small vessels in the lungs.
"The hypothesis was that if we gave medicines to prevent clot formation, we might improve outcomes or improve organ functions," said Dr. Bryan McVerry, a pulmonologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
In two trials involving 3,300 hospitalized patients, doctors gave patients either a low-dose or one full dose of heparin.
"Heparin is well-known as a blood thinner, but Heparin also has anti-inflammatory properties," said Dr. Matthew Neal a trauma surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "What we do know is that patients who were moderately ill, so sick enough to be in the hospital, but not in the ICU, when started on Heparin were less likely to require ICU level of care and less likely to die."
In fact, the researchers say that there is a 99% probability that a full dose of heparin reduces the chance that moderately ill patients will die or need a ventilator as compared to the patients who received a low dose.
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Researchers say while heparin had an impact on moderately ill patients, it did not help patients who were critically ill. They also say the study's findings suggest that a full dose of heparin for moderately ill patients may eventually become standard of care for COVID-19 treatment.
The study was done at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, New York University's School of Medicine and several other institutions worldwide. It was part of a global initiative to identify new COVID-19 treatments.