Therapeutic plasma exchange for COVID-19-associated hyperviscosity

Transfusion. 2021 Apr;61(4):1029-1034. doi: 10.1111/trf.16218. Epub 2020 Dec 9.


Background: Recent data suggests an association between blood hyperviscosity and both propensity for thrombosis and disease severity in patients with COVID-19. This raises the possibility that increased viscosity may contribute to endothelial damage and multiorgan failure in COVID-19, and that therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) to decrease viscosity may improve patient outcomes. Here we sought to share our experience using TPE in the first 6 patients treated for COVID-19-associated hyperviscosity.

Study design and methods: Six critically ill COVID-19 patients with plasma viscosity levels ranging from 2.6 to 4.2 centipoise (cP; normal range, 1.4-1.8 cP) underwent daily TPE for 2-3 treatments.

Results: TPE decreased plasma viscosity in all six patients (Pre-TPE median 3.75 cP, range 2.6-4.2 cP; Post-TPE median 1.6 cP, range 1.5-1.9 cP). TPE also decreased fibrinogen levels in all five patients for whom results were available (Pre-TPE median 739 mg/dL, range 601-1188 mg/dL; Post-TPE median 359 mg/dL, range 235-461 mg/dL); D-dimer levels in all six patients (Pre-TPE median 5921 ng/mL, range 1134-60 000 ng/mL; Post-TPE median 4893 ng/mL, range 620-7518 ng/mL); and CRP levels in five of six patients (Pre-TPE median 292 mg/L, range 136-329 mg/L; Post-TPE median 84 mg/L, range 31-211 mg/L). While the two sickest patients died, significant improvement in clinical status was observed in four of six patients shortly after TPE.

Conclusions: This series demonstrates the utility of TPE to rapidly correct increased blood viscosity in patients with COVID-19-associated hyperviscosity. Large randomized trials are needed to determine whether TPE may improve clinical outcomes for patients with COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Viscosity*
  • COVID-19* / blood
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasma Exchange*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / metabolism*