Semin Thromb Hemost 2023; 49(01): 027-033
DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1742091
Review Article

What We Know (and Do not Know) Regarding the Pathogenesis of Pulmonary Thrombosis in COVID-19

Giuseppe Lippi
1   Section of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Verona, Verona, Italy
Emmanuel J. Favaloro
2   Department of Haematology, Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (ICPMR), NSW Health Pathology, Westmead Hospital, Westmead, NSW, Australia
3   Sydney Centres for Thrombosis and Haemostasis, Westmead, NSW, Australia
4   Faculty of Science and Health, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia
› Author Affiliations


The clinical course of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is often complicated by the onset of venous thrombosis and thromboembolism (VTE), encompassing also pulmonary thrombosis. Recent statistics attests that the cumulative frequency of VTE can be as high as 30% in COVID-19 hospitalized patients, increasing to nearly 40 to 70% (depending on systematic screening) in those with severe illness, mechanical ventilation, or intensive care unit admission. The risk of venous thrombosis seems mostly limited to the active phase of disease, and is directly associated with some genetic (i.e., inherited prothrombotic predisposition) and demographical factors (male sex, overweight/obesity), disease severity (risk increasing progressively from hospitalization to development of severe illness, being the highest in patients needing mechanical ventilation and/or intensive care), presence and extent of pulmonary disease, coexistence of multiple risk factors (immobilization, mechanical ventilation, co- or superinfections), along with increased values of inflammatory and thrombotic biomarkers. At least three different phenotypes of pulmonary thrombosis may develop in COVID-19 patients, one caused by typical embolization from peripheral venous thrombosis (e.g., deep vein thrombosis), a second type triggered by local inflammation of nearby pulmonary tissue, and a third one mostly attributable to the prothrombotic state consequent to the pronounced systemic inflammatory response (i.e., the so-called cytokine storm) that is frequently observed in COVID-19. Although the pathogenesis of these three conditions has different features, their discrimination is essential for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. The prognosis of COVID-19 patients who develop pulmonary thrombosis is also considerably worse than those who do not, thus probably needing frequent monitoring and more aggressive therapeutic management.

Publication History

Article published online:
12 January 2022

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