Prone Positioning as a Potential Risk Factor for Deep Vein Thrombosis in COVID-19 Patients: A Hypothesis Generating Observation

J Clin Med. 2021 Dec 25;11(1):103. doi: 10.3390/jcm11010103.


Aims of the study: Virchow's triad with stasis, activated coagulation, and endothelial damage is common in SARS-CoV2. Therefore, we sought to retrospectively assess whether the duration of prone position may serve as a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis in critically ill patients.

Methods: In this single center retrospective study of a tertiary referral hospital, patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to COVID-19 pneumonia admitted to critical care underwent venous ultrasound screening for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Data on DVT diagnosis, duration of prone positioning, demographic, respiratory, and laboratory parameters were retrospectively collected and compared between DVT and non-DVT patients.

Results: 21 patients with ARDS from COVID-19 pneumonia were analyzed. DVT was detected in 11 (52%) patients (76.2% male, median age 64 (58; 68.5) years, median body mass index 31 (27; 33.8) kg/m2). In patients diagnosed with DVT, median prone ventilation had been maintained twice as long as compared to patients without DVT (57 (19; 72) versus 28 (0; 56.3) h, p = 0.227) on ICU day 5 with a trend towards longer prone position time (71 (19; 104) versus 28 (0; 73) h, p = 0.06) on ICU day 7.

Conclusions: Prone ventilation and constitutional factors may constitute an additional risk factor for DVT in COVID-19 patients. Since recent studies have shown that therapeutic anticoagulation does not impact the occurrence of thromboembolic events, it may be worthwhile to consider mechanical factors potentially affecting blood flow stasis in this high-risk population. However, due to the limited number of patients, our observations should only be considered as hypothesis-generating. Future studies, sufficiently powered and preferably prospective, will be needed to confirm our hypothesis.

Keywords: ARDS; Virchow’s triad; blood viscosity; coronavirus; deep vein thrombosis; obesity; prone position.