What is anticoagulation and why it is so important

Anticoagulant medicines reduce the ability of the blood to clot (coagulation means clotting). This is necessary if the blood clots too much, as in a thrombosis (also called a blood clot) or diseases that may predispose to complications such as a stroke.

The most commonly prescribed anticoagulant medicine is warfarin however there are some newer medicines on the market such as Rivaroxaban as well as injectable anticoagulants such as heparin and enoxaparin.

In normal health when you cut yourself, blood forms a clot on the surface through a series of complex processes causing the blood to become sticky. This prevents further bleeding. This process however can cause problems for example if blood clots in a vein causing a thrombosis, or part of the clot breaks off into the blood stream and blocks arteries in other organs such as your brain in which case you suffer a stroke. Anticoagulants aim to prevent this happening.

Examples in which anticoagulants are used include:

  • deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • pulmonary embolism
  • atrial fibrillation
  • post operative surgery where thrombosis is possible
  • mechanical heart valves
  • certain blood disorders

There is a downside to this however and that is the risk of excessive bleeding HOWEVER (and this is important) you are at more risk of the complications of blood clotting too easily than not. You are safe if you follow the rules and the aim of our clinics is to ensure you remain this way

In order to remain safe, you need to help us in the following ways:

  1. If taking warfarin, you will need to have regular blood tests to ensure you have the right amount of warfarin
  2. If you are prescribed or buy any other medicines then tell a doctor, nurse or pharmacist you are on an anticoagulant
  3. Certain foods and diet can interact with your anticoagulant medication
  4. You should seek advice promptly if you become pregnant or are planning a pregnancy
  5. You need to keep a look out for any obvious bleeding such as external cuts, dark stools that may indicate bleeding from you stomach, blood in your urine or heavy bruising.

For more information on diseases that are mentioned above, click on the links below.

Atrial fibrillation: This explains the risk of atrial fibrillation and enable you to make a decision as to whether or not you wish to take anticoagulant medication click here to read the patient decision aid
Further information on atrial fibrillation can be accessed here by clicking atrial fibrillation 

DVT (Deep vein thrombosis also called "blood clot")
deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Pulmonary Embolism
pulmonary embolism


For more information on the medications we use as anticoagulants, click on the links below.

For an information booklet on how to take your warfarin click here