Thromb J. 2022 Jun 20;20(1):34. doi: 10.1186/s12959-022-00393-z.
BACKGROUND: Pulmonary embolism (PE) without overt deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was common in hospitalized coronavirus-induced disease (COVID)-19 patients and represented a diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic challenge. The aim of this study was to analyze the prognostic role of PE on mortality and the preventive effect of heparin on PE and mortality in unvaccinated COVID-19 patients without overt DVT.
METHODS: Data from 401 unvaccinated patients (age 68 ± 13 years, 33% females) consecutively admitted to the intensive care unit or the medical ward were included in a retrospective longitudinal study. PE was documented by computed tomography scan and DVT by compressive venous ultrasound. The effect of PE diagnosis and any heparin use on in-hospital death (primary outcome) was analyzed by a classical survival model. The preventive effect of heparin on either PE diagnosis or in-hospital death (secondary outcome) was analyzed by a multi-state model after having reclassified patients who started heparin after PE diagnosis as not treated.
RESULTS: Median follow-up time was 8 days (range 1-40 days). PE cumulative incidence and in-hospital mortality were 27% and 20%, respectively. PE was predicted by increased D-dimer levels and COVID-19 severity. Independent predictors of in-hospital death were age (hazards ratio (HR) 1.05, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03-1.08, p < 0.001), body mass index (HR 0.93, 95% CI 0.89-0.98, p = 0.004), COVID-19 severity (severe versus mild/moderate HR 3.67, 95% CI 1.30-10.4, p = 0.014, critical versus mild/moderate HR 12.1, 95% CI 4.57-32.2, p < 0.001), active neoplasia (HR 2.58, 95% CI 1.48-4.50, p < 0.001), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (HR 2.47; 95% CI 1.15-5.27, p = 0.020), respiratory rate (HR 1.06, 95% CI 1.02-1.11, p = 0.008), heart rate (HR 1.03, 95% CI 1.01-1.04, p < 0.001), and any heparin treatment (HR 0.35, 95% CI 0.18-0.67, p = 0.001). In the multi-state model, preventive heparin at prophylactic or intermediate/therapeutic dose, compared with no treatment, reduced PE risk and in-hospital death, but it did not influence mortality of patients with a PE diagnosis.
CONCLUSIONS: PE was common during the first waves pandemic in unvaccinated patients, but it was not a negative prognostic factor for in-hospital death. Heparin treatment at any dose prevented mortality independently of PE diagnosis, D-dimer levels, and disease severity.