Coronavirus Patient Had Four-Hour-Long Erection Due to Blood Clots

A blood clot linked to COVID-19 is thought to have caused a man to have an erection for four hours.

Blood-clotting problems in patients with COVID-19 have been widely reported, but this is thought to be the first case of penile thrombosis linked to the disease, the team wrote in a case study published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

The unnamed 62-year-old man was rushed to hospital in France because he was struggling to breathe. When he arrived at hospital with respiratory failure, he was quickly intubated and hooked up to a ventilator. The man was diagnosed with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, where fluid builds up in the air sacs of the lungs, making it harder to get oxygen around the body.

Doctors performed a physical examination on the patient and noticed he was experiencing priapism, the term used to describe a long-lasting and painful erection that is unrelated to sexual arousal or stimulation. However, as he was sedated healthcare workers were unable to ask him whether he was in pain.

According to the case study, his two corpora cavernosa—the masses of erectile tissue which form the penis—were rigid, but the glans, or tip, was flaccid.

To try to treat the priapism which lasted for four hours, the team drained excess blood from the man's penis. They found the fluid contained blood clots. A drug was also injected into the base of his penis, and an ice pack applied to his genitals.

The team concluded the man had what is known as ischemia-related priapism, caused by an inadequate supply of blood to his penis.

It seemed very likely that the priapism was caused by COVID-19, but further reports would strengthen the evidence, the doctors said. They added that healthcare professionals should recognize the medical emergency and promptly treat patients to prevent immediate and long-term problems with function.

The authors believe the incident could be explained by the coronavirus infection causing the blood to clot more easily.

The case study is the latest paper to shed light on blood clotting in COVID-19 patients. A study published in the journal Blood last month found the coronavirus may cause cells that help the fluid to clot become "hyperreactive."

The work was based on blood samples from 41 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. The scientists focused on a blood component called platelets, which help blood to clot but also play a role in our inflammatory and immune responses.

Researchers found the virus seemed to influence how platelets are made by changing gene expression. The germ also appeared to affect how blood clots in COVID-19 patients, making platelets "hyperreactive," or overly sensitive to stimuli, and more likely to cluster, stick together, and spread.

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