medicines are the main form of treatment for
deep vein thrombosis. Anticoagulants affect the way
blood clots in the body.
Anticoagulants can prevent new
clots from forming and prevent existing clots from getting larger, but
they do not break up or dissolve existing blood clots.
Anticoagulants are used to:
- Treat existing deep vein
- Prevent a blood clot that can develop after some types
- Prevent blood clots in people who are at high risk
(such as those who have had previous clots).
Anticoagulants that are used to prevent and treat deep
vein thrombosis include:
Heparin acts immediately, while warfarin takes several
days to become effective. Heparin will be discontinued when warfarin is at a
Low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) and
unfractionated heparin (UH) are both effective at treating deep vein
thrombosis. LMWH is typically preferred over UH, because LMWH can be given at
home and typically does not require monitoring with blood tests.
The ideal length of time to continue treatment with an oral anticoagulant
varies and is still being researched. In general, treatment of a blood clot
with oral anticoagulant medicines will continue for about 3 to 6 months. The
length of time will vary based on your own health.
- If you have a short-term risk of deep vein
thrombosis because of surgery, treatment with oral anticoagulant medicines
usually lasts a shorter period of time.
- If you have recurrent
blood clots or continuing risk factors (such as cancer), anticoagulant
treatment usually continues as long as those risk factors are present, which
could be for the rest of your life.
- If you have
inherited blood-clotting disorders, you may need oral
Anticoagulant therapy lowers your risk of having another blood clot. This means you have a lower risk of getting deep vein blood clots and
fatal blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism). Some people may take low-molecular-weight
heparin (LMWH) long term instead of warfarin.
After your first
treatment with warfarin, your doctor may recommend that you take warfarin on an
ongoing basis to prevent deep vein clots from recurring.
Heparin. If you take heparin:
Warfarin. If you take warfarin:
- Get regular blood tests.
- Prevent falls and injuries.
- Eat a steady diet, and pay attention to foods that contain vitamin K.
- Tell your doctors about all other medicines and vitamins that you take.
For more information, see:
- Warfarin: Taking your medicine safely.
What To Think About
Aspirin may help prevent blood
clots and reduce the risk of pulmonary embolism. But experts do not agree on
how well aspirin works for preventing pulmonary embolism.
Thrombolytics are sometimes used in certain situations to treat deep vein
thrombosis. But thrombolytics have a high risk of causing bleeding.
other illnesses such as liver or kidney problems, a recent stroke, recent
surgery, inherited bleeding disorders, a bleeding ulcer, or other internal
bleeding may not be able to take anticoagulants or thrombolytic medicines.
Pregnant women who have deep vein thrombosis should not
use warfarin. Only unfractionated heparin or low-molecular-weight heparin
should be given.