Definition and Overview
Anticoagulation management refers to different therapies used to treat, prevent, and manage blood clotting disorders.
When a person gets injured, it is normal for the skin to break or for an organ to bleed. However, the body has the ability to control the bleeding through coagulation or clotting. In the event of bleeding, platelets and the proteins that are found in the blood’s plasma, bond together to the injured site to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has stopped, the body is supposed to reabsorb the blood clot.
However, in some cases, the body does not reabsorb blood clots. There are also times when these clots form despite the absence of injury or bleeding. The condition is particularly dangerous when blood clots develop in the blood vessels as they can restrict the proper blood flow in the body, cutting off the much-needed supply of nutrients and oxygen. They can also cause blood vessels to rupture.
Anticoagulation management, therefore, is designed to ensure that the body’s ability to form blood clot doesn’t cause harm to the patient.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Anticoagulants are often recommended for people who have been diagnosed with blood clotting disorders. These include atrial fibrillation (AF), pulmonary embolism, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Atrial fibrillation is a type of heart condition characterized by an irregular or abnormal heartbeat. When the heart fails to move blood using its different chambers, the blood becomes stagnant and this encourages the formation of blood clots.
DVT, on the other hand, is a kind of blood clotting disorder that occurs in a huge deep vein, usually the one in the leg. In some cases, a clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream where it lodges itself in any of the blood vessels such as a main artery of the lung. This may then cause pulmonary embolism.
There are also people who carry certain genetic mutations that make them more susceptible to creating unnecessary blood clots.
Depending on the severity or kind of the blood clot, as well as the overall health of the patient, anticoagulation management may last for at least two weeks.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Anticoagulation management is typically implemented with medications (drug therapy). Two of the most well-known drugs used are called heparin and warfarin. Heparin is an injection while warfarin is in a form of a tablet or capsule.
The doctor, typically a hematologist who specializes in blood (especially if the patient’s condition is directly caused by a blood clotting disorder), provides clear information about the management plan. These include:
- The specific drug to take
- Dosage and administration
- Duration of the therapy
- Risks and complications
- Limitations of the medications
Many factors are also considered before medications are provided, including:
- Presence of other illnesses
- Severity of the clotting problem
Indirectly, the management program may refer to the treatment of the underlying disease. For example, atrial fibrillation may be corrected through drugs, electric shock treatment, or catheter ablation. In more severe cases, a pacemaker may be attached. Regardless of the method used, the management of this condition aims to prevent the formation of unnecessary blood clot.
Possible Risks and Complications
Drugs have side effects. For anticoagulants, two of the possible side effects are bruising and bleeding. Some patients like those with cancer or a bleeding disorder like hemophilia may bleed more easily. Those who are about to undergo surgery should inform their doctor if they are taking anticoagulants so necessary preparations and adjustments can be performed to make the surgery safer for the patient.
- Holbrook A, Schulman S, Witt DM, et al. Evidence-based management of anticoagulant therapy: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2012;141:e152S. PMID: 22315259 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22315259.