SARS-CoV-2 and limb ischemia: A systematic review

Robert M. Putko*, Michael D. Bedrin, Des Raj M. Clark, Andres S. Piscoya, John C. Dunn, Leon J. Nesti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Recent spread of severe acute respiratory coronavirus syndrome-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has led to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, resulting in new challenges across all medical specialties. Limb and digit ischemia have been associated with COVID-19 infection. This systematic review includes primary studies of COVID-19 limb ischemia to identify risk factors, comorbidities, case characteristics, and treatment strategies to better understand the nature of this disease and its effects on the extremities. Methods: A literature search for studies detailing COVID-19 infected patients with limb or digit ischemia was performed, identifying 157 articles, 12 of which met inclusion criteria, accounting for 47 patients. Inclusion criteria were (1) primary studies, (2) positive disease diagnosis (3) limb ischemia, (4) reported treatment. Demographic data, case characteristics, treatments, outcomes and mortality were collected and pooled. Results: The average patient age was 67.6 years, predominantly male (79.6%). Of the 44 cases discussing treatment, 13 (30%) patients underwent medical treatment alone, while 23 (52.3%) patients underwent medical plus surgical treatment. Four patients (9.1%) were treated with observation. In 10 of the 12 studies, lab findings, thrombosis, or conclusions supporting a hypercoagulable state as a cause of limb/digit ischemia were cited. Five patients (10.6%) were on vasopressors and 8 patients (17.0%) were on a ventilator. Of those treated with observation alone, there was 100% resolution of symptoms. Of those treated medically without surgical intervention (17 patients), 6 patients (35.3%) were reported to have revascularization, 6 patients (35.3%) died, and the remaining outcomes were not reported. Medical and surgical treatment resulted in one limb amputation (4.4%) and altogether 74% of patients achieved revascularization of the affected limb/digit. Mortality rate was 45%. Conclusions: COVID-19 infection may be associated with increased risk of limb or digital ischemia, although the quality of evidence supporting this theory is limited. Evidence of inflammatory-mediated thrombosis and endothelial injury are possible explanations which would support the use of immunotherapy in addition to anticoagulation for treatment or prevention of thromboembolic events. Current outcomes and treatment strategies are variable. Level of evidence: IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-199
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


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