COVID-19 And Risk Of Intestinal Gangrene: All You Want To Know

Covid-19 may lead to clotting of blood which could also lead to a fatal condition called Intestinal Gangrene. Know all about it from a leading doctor.

Parmita Uniyal
Written by: Parmita UniyalPublished at: Jun 15, 2021Updated at: Jun 15, 2021
COVID-19 And Risk Of Intestinal Gangrene: All You Want To Know

Covid-19 being a respiratory disease is known to impact your lungs the most. But in around 25% of cases, gastrointestinal symptoms may occur during the early phase of the disease like vomiting, stomach pain or diarrhea even before the respiratory issues begin. In the second wave, with increase in severe cases of Covid, multiple organs of people were affected by the deadly disease. Considering Covid-19 also increases coagulation or clotting of blood, risks of strokes, cardiac arrests has increased among Covid patients, mostly suffering from severe disease. Apart from these, there have been reports of Covid patients suffering from Intestinal Gangrene that is caused by Mesenteric Thrombosis. Msenteric Thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the major veins involved in getting blood from intestines.

So what is Intestinal Gangrene and how deadly is the health condition. Dr Hemant A. Patil, Advanced Laparoscopic & Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Fortis Hospital Mulund tells us all about it and how Covid-19 increases the risk of the disease.

Dr Patil says if left untreated intestinal gangrene can be fatal but can be treated if diagnosed early.

Also Read: 7 Tips To Treat Swollen Feet In Diabetics

What Is Intestinal Gangrene And Can It Be Caused By Covid-19?

Gangrene is basically the death of a body tissue because of lack of blood flow or a severe infection. There are several types of Gangrene. If it involves the intestine, it is called Intestinal Gangrene. 

Intestinal Gangrene involves short or long segment of your small intestines. This type of gangrene occurs when blood flow to the small intestine is blocked - due to pressure from outside on the blood supplying artery or the blockage of the artery. 

Two causes of intestinal gangrene are:

  • External pressure in cases of strangulated hernia 
  • Intestine gangrene due to blockage of mesenteric artery 

Blockage of mesenteric artery is what is seen in covid patients these days.  

How Covid-19 Can Cause Intestinal Gangrene

How Covid-19 May Cause Intestinal Gangrene

People with uncontrolled Diabetes, Obesity and extremely lowered immunity are at higher risk of getting Intestinal Gangrene. In case of Covid-19 not only the immunity of a patient is low, but also there is a tendency of hypercoagulopathy which leads to formation of clots. This combination may be causing Intestinal Gangrene among Covid-19 patients but so far no definite cause is known. 

Symptoms of Intestinal Gangrene

  • Abdominal pain 
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stools or dark coloured stools
  • Fever

Other symptoms include:

  • Abdominal distension
  • Perforation
  • Sepsis

Diagnosis & Treatment

Covid-19 patients who are exhibiting the abovementioned symptoms must be investigated for Intestinal Gangrene.

  • A CT scan of the abdomen with Angiography to identify blockages can be done

For treatment: 

  • Blood thinners can be given in early stages
  • In case you have a blood clotting disorder, you may need to take blood thinners indefinitely. 
  • In some cases, when a blood clot is discovered in the Mesenteric Veins or Artery, blood thinners can be delivered directly to the clot through a procedure called Thrombolysis. 

Other treatment modules include:

  • Low-Molecular-Weight Heparin (LMWH)
  • Intravascular Thrombolysis
  • In some cases where Intestinal Gangrene already established, surgical intervention is a must
How Covid-19 Can Cause Intestinal Gangrene

How To Protect Yourself From The Condition

1. Eat Healthy And Exercise: People who have low immunity are at increased risk of Intestinal Gangrene. Eating a healthy diet and timely meals are important to keep your immunity strong. You must also stay physically active as sedentary lifestyle apart from leading to many lifestyle disorders can put you at increased risk of landing in ICU in case of getting Covid-19

2. Control Your Diabetes: People who have uncontrolled Diabetes are more at risk of developing clots and such diseases. Consult your doctor and keep your Diabetes in control.

3. Say No To Tobacco: Smoking raises the risk of blood clots and damages the lining of the blood vessels, which can be responsible for clot formation. If this is not the motivation to quit, what would be?

4. Follow Covid-appropriate Behaviour: Wear a mask in public and maintain social distancing. Wash your hands for sixty seconds and sanitize your home regularly.

5. Do not ignore any abdominal symptoms and get yourself examined in case of doubt.

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