Systemic thrombolytics as rescue therapy for COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome: A retrospective observational study

Int J Crit Illn Inj Sci. 2022 Oct-Dec;12(4):197-203. doi: 10.4103/ijciis.ijciis_45_22. Epub 2022 Dec 26.


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is often associated with a progressive respiratory failure that is refractory to maximal ventilatory support and other ARDS strategies. Studies show evidence of a hypercoagulable state in COVID-19 patients, including capillary thrombosis and alveolar fibrin deposits which impede normal gas exchange. In this context, thrombolysis is considered as a salvage therapy to rescue critically hypoxemic patients.

Methods: In this retrospective observational study, the efficacy of thrombolysis on outcome of COVID-19 ARDS with respiratory failure was analyzed. Patients with severe ARDS and d-dimer levels of 5 μg/ml or above were initiated on alteplase, as a 25 mg bolus followed by a 25 mg infusion over 22 h. Primary outcome was intensive care unit (ICU) mortality and secondary outcomes were change in PaO2/FiO2 24 h after thrombolysis, avoidance of intubation, ventilator free days (VFD), and ICU and hospital length-of-stay (LOS).

Results: Thirteen out of 34 patients with severe COVID ARDS underwent thrombolysis. They had lower ICU mortality than non-thrombolysed patients (23.1% vs. 71.4%, P = 0.006), greater percentage improvement in PaO2/FiO2 (116% vs. 31.5%, P = 0.002), more VFDs (13 days vs. 0 day, P = 0.004), and lesser requirement for intubation (23.1% vs. 76.2%, P = 0.004). ICU and hospital LOS were similar.

Conclusion: Thrombolysis can be considered as a rescue therapy for nonintubated COVID-19 ARDS patients with severe hypoxemic respiratory failure, who show evidence of a procoagulant state. Larger studies are needed before inclusion into the regular treatment protocol for COVID-19 patients.

Keywords: Acute respiratory distress syndrome; coronavirus disease 2019; d-dimer test; respiratory failure; thrombolytic therapy.