February 01, 2019

Anticoagulants

Combating clots

You recently received a diagnosis of an irregular heartbeat — a condition known as atrial fibrillation. Because the condition may put you at high risk of a stroke, your doctor recommended a blood thinner as part of your treatment plan. This means weighing the risks and benefits of the different options.

Why an anticoagulant?

Blood clots form when platelets clump together and trigger plasma proteins to thicken, forming a semisolid mass. If a clot forms in a vein or artery, it can travel to other parts of the body, causing potentially significant harm.

Medications that delay blood clotting are known as blood thinners (anticoagulants). These drugs make it hard for clots to form and prevent existing clots from growing. Anticoagulants are used to prevent strokes in people with heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation or in people with an artificial (prosthetic) heart valve or valvular heart disease.

Anticoagulants are also used to prevent and treat blood clots in the deep veins inside your body (deep vein thrombosis), as well as preventing these clots from traveling to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).

Anticoagulant options

The anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) has been around for decades. While the drug is effective, it carries a low but real risk of internal bleeding. If the warfarin level in blood is too high, bleeding is more likely to occur. If the level is too low, clotting is more likely to occur. Because of this, people taking warfarin require regular blood tests to ensure the dose of drug they're taking...