Anticoagulation, Generic

Anticoagulants are medications used to prevent clots from developing in your veins. These medications are also known as blood thinners. If blood clots are untreated, they could travel to your lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolus. A blood clot in your lungs can be fatal.

Caregivers often use anticoagulants to prevent clots following surgery. Anticoagulants are also used along with aspirin when the heart is not getting enough blood.

Another anticoagulant called warfarin is started 2 to 3 days after a rapid-acting injectable anticoagulant is started. The rapid-acting anticoagulants are usually continued until warfarin has begun to work. Your caregiver will judge this length of time by measuring a blood test known as the International Normalization Ratio (INR). An INR of 2 to 3 is desirable for most medical conditions. This means that your blood is at the necessary and best level to prevent clots.

RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS

  • If you have received recent epidural anesthesia, spinal anesthesia, or a spinal tap while receiving anticoagulants, you are at risk for developing a blood clot in or around the spine. This condition could result in long-term or permanent paralysis.

  • Because anticoagulants thin your blood, severe bleeding may occur from any tissue or organ. Symptoms of the blood being too thin may include:

  • Bleeding from the nose or gums that does not stop quickly.

  • Unusual bruising or bruising easily.

  • Swelling or pain at an injection site.

  • A cut that does not stop bleeding within 10 minutes.

  • Continual nausea for more than 1 day or vomiting blood.

  • Coughing up blood.

  • Blood in the urine which may appear as pink, red, or brown urine.

  • Blood in bowel movements which may appear as red, dark or black stools.

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.

  • Sudden confusion.

  • Trouble speaking (aphasia) or understanding.

  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

  • Sudden trouble walking.

  • Dizziness.

  • Loss of balance or coordination.

  • Severe pain, such as a headache, joint pain, or back pain.

  • Fever.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Due to the complications of anticoagulants, it is very important that you take your anticoagulant as directed by your caregiver. Anticoagulants need to be taken exactly as instructed. Be sure you understand all your anticoagulant instructions.

  • Changes in medicines, supplements, diet, and illness can affect your anticoagulation therapy. Be sure to inform your caregivers of any of these changes.

  • While on anticoagulants, you will need to have blood tests done routinely as directed by your caregivers.

  • Be careful not to cut yourself when using sharp objects.

  • Avoid heavy or variable alcohol use. Consume alcohol only in very limited quantities. General alcohol intake guidelines are 1 drink for nonpregnant women and 2 drinks for men per day. (1 drink = 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1 ½ ounces of liquor). A sudden increase in alcohol use can increase your risk of bleeding. Chronic alcohol use can cause warfarin to be less effective.

  • Limit physical activities or sports that could result in a fall or cause injury.

  • It is extremely important that you tell all of your caregivers and dentist that you are taking an anticoagulant, especially if you are injured or plan to have any type of procedure or operation.

  • Follow up with your laboratory test and caregiver appointments as directed. It is very important to keep your appointments. Not keeping appointments could result in a chronic or permanent injury, pain, or disability.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop any rashes.

  • You have any worsening of the condition for which you are receiving anticoagulation therapy.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Bleeding from the nose or gums does not stop quickly.

  • You have unusual bruising or are bruising easily.

  • Swelling or pain occurs at an injection site.

  • A cut does not stop bleeding within 10 minutes.

  • You have continual nausea for more than 1 day or are vomiting blood.

  • You are coughing up blood.

  • You have blood in the urine.

  • You have dark or black stools.

  • You have sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.

  • You have sudden confusion.

  • You have trouble speaking (aphasia) or understanding.

  • You have sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

  • You have sudden trouble walking.

  • You have dizziness.

  • You have a loss of balance or coordination.

  • You have severe pain, such as a headache, joint pain, or back pain.

  • You have a serious fall or head injury, even if you are not bleeding.

  • You have an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C), not controlled by medicine.

ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS MAY REPRESENT A SERIOUS PROBLEM THAT IS AN EMERGENCY. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in U.S.). DO NOT drive yourself to the hospital.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.