Anti-Coagulants may be used to Prevent Blood Clots
There are oral and intravenous/subcutaneous anti-coagulant medications. Most oral medications are used for ambulatory patients at home. Most of the other anti-coagulant medications are used in a hospital setting.
Tissue plasminogen activator or TPA is used as a clot-busting drug. It is used when a person already has a clot that has caused a heart attack, pulmonary embolism or stroke. It breaks down clots and is used in a hospital setting. TPA must be used within a certain period of time or it will not help the problem. It carries the risk of severe bleeding.
Heparin is usually used in a hospital setting but subcutaneous heparin is occasionally prescribed for patients at high risk for clots who are in a home setting. It is both used to treat clots and to prevent them. It cannot be used in patients who have low platelets. The risk of being on heparin is that it carries the risk of heavy, uncontrollable bleeding. It must be given in careful doses so that the blood is not too thick and not too thin.
Warfarin or Coumadin® is an oral blood thinner used best to prevent blood clots. It is often given after a person has first been on heparin because heparin works immediately and warfarin takes several days to take effect. Like heparin, the blood must be regularly monitored to make sure the dose is correct. It is often taken for long periods of time in patients who are at risk of blood clots. Xarelto is an inhibitor of Factor Xa and is a preventative for blood clots. Unlike heparin and warfarin, it does not require regular monitoring. It can, however, cause severe bleeding like the others.