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Taking Blood Thinners for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and Xarelto (rivaroxaban)are types of blood thinners (anticoagulants) commonly used in deep vein thrombosis treatment. Though they're called blood thinners, these DVT treatments do not actually thin your blood; rather, they can keep existing blood clots from getting larger or prevent new ones from forming. They do this by preventing the production of certain proteins needed for blood to clot.

Blood Thinner Basics

If you're taking heparin and warfarin for DVT, be sure you: 

  • Tell your doctor about all other medications you take -- including over-the-counter drugs, herbal remedies, and vitamins or other supplements. Some medications can weaken or strengthen the effects of blood thinners, which can be extremely dangerous.
  • Do not take aspirin with blood thinners unless your doctor says it's OK.
  • Tell all your doctors and dentists that you're taking blood thinners.
  • Tell your doctor if you're trying to become pregnant or have become pregnant.
  • Tell your doctor if you have an accident of any kind. Anticoagulants increase your risk of bleeding.
  • Let your close family members know how you take your blood thinners.
  • Carry an emergency medical ID card that contains the name of the medication you're taking, your name, phone number, and address, and the name, phone number, and address of your doctor.

Tips for Taking Blood Thinners for DVT

If you're taking a blood thinner for DVT, you should know the following:

Heparin: Traditionally, people have received heparin intravenously (by IV into a vein) in the hospital for about five to seven days. However, low-molecular-weight heparin is effective within hours, reducing complications and hospitalizations. You can give yourself the injections at home, once or twice daily, on an outpatient basis. And because low-molecular-weight heparin is more consistent and predictable, it doesn't require regular blood tests.

Warfarin: You take warfarin by pill once a day, beginning while you're still on heparin. Treatment may continue for about three to six months. While on warfarin, you need regular blood tests to ensure you have the correct dosage. Ask your doctor how long you will need to take heparin and warfarin. And follow these six tips for taking these anticoagulants:

  • Take medication exactly as your doctor tells you to.
  • Take your medication at the same time each day. Your doctor may recommend taking it in the evening so it's easier to make any adjustments in your dosage.
  • Always double-check your pills when you get a new prescription. Tablets are color-coded. They also have the milligram strength printed on them. If the dose differs from your last one, check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure it is correct.
  • Do NOT follow label directions for warfarin. Your dosage is adjusted depending upon your blood results.
  • Call for refills of your heparin and warfarin prescriptions before you run out. It is risky to go even one day without your medication.
  • If you do miss a dose, call your doctor or clinic for instructions. Don't try to make up for missed doses or change your dose on your own for any reason.

Xarelto: 

  • Tell your doctor you are using Xarelto before having certain spinal procedures (spinal puncture or spinal/epidural anesthesia).
  • Tell your doctor right away if you have any symptoms such as tingling, numbness (especially in the legs), or muscle weakness.
  • Take medication exactly as your doctor tells you to.
  • Take medication at the same time each day.
  • Patients do not need to monitor blood levels of Xarelto.
  • Xarelto is also approved for: 
    • prevention of blood clots after hip or knee replacement
    • prevention of pulmonary embolism
    • prevention of stroke caused by atrial fibrilation   

 

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