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June 02, 2021

IU Health vascular team’s phone app focuses on blood clots and COVID patients

IU Health vascular team’s phone app focuses on blood clots and COVID patients

As health care providers piece together the impact of the deadly coronavirus, a team of IU Health doctors introduces a smart phone tool.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Families and practitioners know their smart phones have become a lifeline during the novel coronavirus. The phones have summoned “911;” they have connected patients with their loved one; and they have joined millions of people who are otherwise isolated from the outside world.

Now, through a simple phone app, practitioners can determine if a patient is at risk of forming blood clots. Over the past few month physicians and researchers have identified numerous symptoms related to COVID-19. One of those symptoms is that the virus can lead to the formation of blood clots. Those clots can lead to life-threatening complications such as stroke or deep vein thrombosis (blood clotting typically in the legs).

Not only have those clots formed in the legs but also in the lungs – slowing the life-saving oxygen from entering the body. And they haven’t stopped there. Researchers have found that patients with COVID-19 can develop blood clots in intravenous lines and catheters, arteries, and extremities such as the toes. In some cases, the blood clots can harm the arteries leading to the brain and kidneys.

There are still a number of unanswered questions about why patients develop blood clots. But more and more information is surfacing to better understand the likelihood of one patient developing blood clots over another patient.

Dr. Raghu L. Motaganahalli professional photo

“Of the patients we reviewed 31 percent had blood clots and out of that 31 percent 50 percent had blood clots in both legs,” said IU Health Dr. Raghu L. Motaganahalli, Division Chief of Vascular Surgery. Dr. Motaganahalli and his IU Health colleagues reviewed oxygen saturation, radiologic findings, and the need for advanced respiratory therapies to classify IU Health patients into mild, moderate, or severe categories of COVID-19 infection. “We learned that COVID can reduce blood circulation – not in every patient but in those who are moderately or severely sick,” said Dr. Motaganahalli. Male patients with a high bone mass index (BMI) were particularly at risk, said Dr. Motaganahalli.

As a result of the team’s research they were able to develop a phone app that can be used by the attending physician to determine what patients are at the greatest risk for blood clotting.

“The physician can use the app as a scoring tool. By inputting certain elements into their phone, the app can calculate the patient probability of forming blood clots,” said Dr. Motaganahalli. The application has several benefits including early intervention such as increased doses of blood thinners. It also reduces unnecessary patient contact with other health care providers and technicians that can lead to the spread of the virus.

“As we continue to learn more and more about this virus we also learn more and more about ways to contain it,” said Dr. Motaganahalli. “We are continually looking at ways to treat patients early for the risks and also trying to eliminate the concentration of the infection in health care.”

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