Introduction: A hypercoagulable condition was described in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and proposed as a possible pathogenic mechanism contributing to disease progression and lethality.
Aim: We evaluated if in-hospital administration of heparin improved survival in a large cohort of Italian COVID-19 patients.
Methods: In a retrospective observational study, 2,574 unselected patients hospitalized in 30 clinical centers in Italy from February 19, 2020 to June 5, 2020 with laboratory-confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 infection were analyzed. The primary endpoint in a time-to event analysis was in-hospital death, comparing patients who received heparin (low-molecular-weight heparin [LMWH] or unfractionated heparin [UFH]) with patients who did not. We used multivariable Cox proportional-hazards regression models with inverse probability for treatment weighting by propensity scores.
Results: Out of 2,574 COVID-19 patients, 70.1% received heparin. LMWH was largely the most used formulation (99.5%). Death rates for patients receiving heparin or not were 7.4 and 14.0 per 1,000 person-days, respectively. After adjustment for propensity scores, we found a 40% lower risk of death in patients receiving heparin (hazard ratio = 0.60; 95% confidence interval: 0.49-0.74; E-value = 2.04). This association was particularly evident in patients with a higher severity of disease or strong coagulation activation.
Conclusion: In-hospital heparin treatment was associated with a lower mortality, particularly in severely ill COVID-19 patients and in those with strong coagulation activation. The results from randomized clinical trials are eagerly awaited to provide clear-cut recommendations.
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