LSU Health releases results of COVID-19 death autopsies on local African American patients


Study: blood clots found in small vessels in lungs, series of health issues in each patient

NEW ORLEANS (WDSU) — New findings in a series of autopsies done on African Americans who died from COVID-19 here in New Orleans were released Wednesday.

In a recent autopsy report on more than two-dozen black patients, both male and female, researchers found similarities in each case – all dealing with blood clots in the lungs.

“We found that the small vessels and capillaries in the lungs were obstructed by blood clots and associated hemorrhage that significantly contributed to decompensation and death in these patients,” says Dr. Richard Vander Heide, senior author in the study Director of Pathology Research at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. “We also found elevated levels of D-dimers — fragments of proteins involved in breaking down blood clots. What we did not see was myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, that early reports suggested significantly contributes to death from COVID-19.”

According to the study, the patients ranged in age from 40 to 70 years old and had a history of hypertension, obesity, insulin-dependent type II diabetes and chronic kidney disease. The patients also were seen in a hospital approximately three days to one week after developing a mild cough and fever, experiencing sudden respiratory decompensation or collapsed at home.

Pathologists are hoping this research can help in finding the best treatment for COVID-19 patients with similar demographics in our area.

“One thing we’ve learned from this is anti-coagulation is important, ” says Dr. Rachel Fox, Associate Director of Research and Development at LSU Health New Orleans. “Exactly what type we’re not sure…and perhaps starting that earlier and continuing in that longer than we would’ve initially anticipated.”

The autopsies were performed at University Medical Center in New Orleans, one of the only hospitals in the country that meet CDC standards for performing autopsies on COVID-19 patients in a safe manner.

You can see the findings published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine here.

By: Sherman Desselle

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