Autopsies of COVID-19 patients show blood clots in multiple organs, top pathologist says

Autopsies of patients who have died from COVID-19 have shown a “dramatic” increase in the number of blood clots affecting major and minor blood vessels as well as “almost every organ” in the human body, according to a top New York pathologist. 

Amy Rapkiewicz, the chairman of pathology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told CNN on Thursday that while she expected the virus to cause clotting in the lungs and in lines of various large blood vessels, doctors in her recent study on coronavirus found clotting all over the body. 

"And this was dramatic, because though we might have expected it in the lungs, we found it in almost every organ that we looked at in our autopsy study," Rapkiewicz said. 

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COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is known to affect the upper respiratory system and cause cardiovascular issues in patients experiencing severe symptoms. Many patients severely affected by the virus see a rapid heartbeat and increased ventilation blood clots, and some may even go into cardiac arrest.

In the pathologist’s study published in The Lancet journal EClinicalMedicine, researchers also found the existence of megakaryocytes, bone marrow cells that usually do not circulate outside the bones and lungs, according to Rapkiewicz, the news outlet reported. 

"We found them in the heart and the kidneys and the liver and other organs,” she said. "Notably in the heart, megakaryocytes produce something called platelets that are intimately involved in blood clotting." 

These findings could provide insight into how these cells affect clotting and the overall bodily response when patients are fighting the coronavirus. 

The newest insight comes as medical professionals across the globe are racing to understand more about the disease that has infected more than 12.2 million people worldwide and killed more than 555,000 people. 

Researchers in the U.S. are scrambling to come up with therapeutic treatments and a vaccine for the disease as the nation continues to be ravaged by new outbreaks across the Southern and Western parts of the country. 

The United States has more than3.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 133,000 deaths from the disease, more than any other nation in the world, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.