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Heart Disease Health Center

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Anticoagulants for Heart Attack and Unstable Angina


Unfractionated heparin

Generic Name Brand Name
heparin Heparin

Low-molecular-weight heparins

Generic Name Brand Name
dalteparin Fragmin
enoxaparin Lovenox
tinzaparin Innohep

Direct thrombin inhibitors

Generic Name Brand Name
bivalirudin Angiomax
fondaparinux Arixtra

How It Works

Anticoagulants are often called "blood thinners," although they don't really thin blood. They decrease the blood's ability to clot.

Why It Is Used

Anticoagulants are given in the hospital during unstable angina or a heart attack, because they can prevent clots from becoming larger and blocking coronary arteries. They are often given with other anticlotting medicines to help prevent or reduce heart muscle damage.

How Well It Works

Anticoagulants can help prevent another heart attack and lower the risk of dying soon after a heart attack.1

Side Effects

Anticoagulants for a heart attack are given in the hospital. So a person is watched closely for any side effects.

The most common side effect is bleeding inside the body.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Anticoagulants might be used after a person goes home from the hospital after a heart attack. These medicines can lower the risk of another heart attack, and they can lower the risk of stroke. For this long-term use, another type of anticoagulant, such as warfarin, is typically used.

When you take anticoagulants at home, you need to take extra steps to avoid bleeding problems. If you take warfarin, see:

actionset.gif Warfarin: Taking Your Medicine Safely.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


  1. O'Connor RE, et al. (2010). Acute coronary syndromes: 2010 American Heart Association guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care. Circulation, 122(18): S787-S817.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical ReviewerStephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology

Current as ofMarch 12, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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