A COVID-Positive 52-Year-Old Man Presented With Venous Thromboembolism and Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation Following Johnson & Johnson Vaccination: A Case-Study

Cureus. 2021 Jul 14;13(7):e16383. doi: 10.7759/cureus.16383. eCollection 2021 Jul.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Infection by the SARS-CoV-2 increases the risk for systematic multi-organ complications and venous, arterial thromboembolism. The need for an effective vaccine to combat the pandemic prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a nationwide distribution of the Ad26.COV2.S vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The use of the vaccine was halted after reported cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and thrombocytopenia among recipients. Researchers have postulated these rare occurrences as potentially immune-triggered responses associated with complement-mediated thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA). Thrombotic complications and thrombocytopenia increase the risk for blood clot growth due to the inflammation of immune complexes by pro-thrombotic activation of anti-platelet antibodies. A 52-year-old man presented to the intensive care unit (ICU) with severe dyspnea. He required bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) for supplemental oxygen therapy. Endotracheal intubation was performed due to his worsened respiratory deterioration. Lab results suggested respiratory failure due to decreased partial pressure of oxygen (pO2) and increased partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2). Findings of elevated D-dimer levels with decreased fibrinogen and thrombocytopenia with prolonged prothrombin clotting time were consistent for disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). Chest radiography displayed moderate to heavy bilateral airspace consolidations, consistent with multifocal pneumonia suspicious for COVID-19. A computed tomography angiogram (CTA) revealed a mildly enlarged right ventricle and interventricular septum consistent for right heart strain due to a saddle pulmonary embolism (PE) that extended into the main pulmonary lobar segmental arteries bilaterally. The patient was transferred to a higher-level (tertiary) care for radiology intervention to remove the pulmonary embolism found on his lungs. This patient presented with severe dyspnea secondary to massive PE and deep venous thrombosis (DVT) due to SARS-CoV2 infection following the administration of the J&J vaccine. Bilateral thrombus opacities and pulmonary emboli are consistent among COVID-19 patients by intravascular coagulation with increased prothrombin time and D-dimer concentration with a low platelet count. Adverse emboli growths with increased D-dimer and thrombocytopenia strikes a similarity in recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT). Administrative use of the J&J vaccine resumed in May 2021. The FDA's reassurance stemmed from their conclusive findings that the vaccine's benefits far outweigh these rare developments, which account for less than 0.01% of the total recipient population. Nevertheless, a further detailed analysis must be conducted on the adverse thrombotic manifestations following adenoviral-based COVID-19 vaccines (J&J, AstraZeneca) compared to mRNA-based vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer) to assess causality with higher specificity.

Keywords: coronavirus covid-19; deep vein thrombosis (dvt); disseminated intravascular coagulation (dic); johnson and johnson vaccine; saddle pulmonary embolism; thrombotic thrombocytopenic thrombocytopenia; venous thromboembolism (vte).

Publication types

  • Case Reports