Benson Viscometers, based in Haverfordwest, Wales is the market leader in the UK and Ireland for clinical viscometers, instruments which can be used to measure the viscosity, or thickness, of blood. They work by drawing a small sample of plasma through a narrow capillary using a constant pressure and measuring the time taken for the sample to move a known distance.
At Addenbrookes Hospital in the UK, the company’s equipment is now being used to explore how best to understand and treat Covid-19. Clinicians have been carrying out viscometry tests on all Covid-19 patients to establish a link between blood viscosity and the viral disease, and explore how it may relate to disease severity and recovery. Health Services Laboratories in London is also on the case, using blood viscosity tests to monitor inflammatory status in certain groups of Covid-19 patients, exploring the possibility that high inflammatory markers might indicate the need for alternative strategies for stroke prevention in these patients.
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Anecdotal reports about the thick blood of Covid-19 patients have poured in from clinicians around the world, and a study recently published in The Lancet has now found that critically ill Covid-19 patients in Emory Healthcare’s intensive care unit (ICU) had plasma viscosity levels above the normal range. The sickest Emory patients had the highest plasma viscosity levels, more than double what is normal in some cases, and were more likely to have blood clots.
If plasma viscosity of Covid-19 patients is regularly tested, doctors will be able to see when levels are rising ahead of time and administer anti-clotting medication earlier in a patient’s treatment, potentially preventing further deterioration.