Finding the Right Blood Thinner

If you have certain types of heart disease, you are at risk for forming blood clots. These clots can travel to the brain or other parts of your body and cause a stroke or a heart attack.

Doctors typically prescribe blood thinners for patients who have a medical condition that can cause clots. One of the most common types is warfarin, a medication that is sold under the brand name Coumadin.

“While warfarin cannot dissolve a blood clot, it can prevent a new clot from forming or decrease the size of an existing clot,” says Joseph C. Dwyer, MD, FACC, cardiologist, Saint Francis Medical Partner. “It can also minimize the risk of a clot traveling to another part of your body.”

Joseph C. Dwyer, MD, FACCBlood thinners are often prescribed for patients who suffer from atrial fibrillation, a type of an irregular heartbeat where blood can pool in cardiac chambers, leading to blood clots.

Other patients who may be prescribed blood thinners include those who have experienced:

  • a pulmonary embolism
  • a heart attack
  • a type of orthopedic surgery
  • a certain type of stroke
  • a blood clot in the leg

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several other types of medications, including Pradaxa, Xarelto and Eliquis. All three are approved to treat patients with atrial fibrillation, as well as pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis – blood clots that occur in the thigh and lower leg.

“If you are doing well with warfarin, there is no need to try a different medication,” says Dwyer. “However, the other medications have certain advantages. We do not need to perform as many blood tests, and patients do not need to watch their vitamin K intake as they do with warfarin.”

Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each medication. “Your doctor can help you find the right blood thinner,” says Dwyer.

For more information, call 573-331-3996.