Millions of people depend on anticoagulants – also known as “blood thinners” – to prevent life-threatening blood clots. While these medications do not actually “thin” the blood, they do slow the body’s ability to form dangerous blood clots, such as blood clots in the arms or legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) and blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism or PE). Blood thinners, however, do not completely stop the body’s ability to clot, because blood clots are a beneficial part of healing from an injury.
As with any medication you take, there are potential risks when taking blood thinners. These risks include unwanted or even dangerous bleeding. Bleeding risks can be particularly overwhelming to think about, especially if you are preparing for a surgical, dental, or other medical procedure. Despite the effectiveness of blood thinners, preventable bleeding and clotting events still happen, especially before, during, and after surgery or other medical procedures. It is just as important for patients to understand bleeding and clotting risks as it is for the doctors who are caring for them to manage these risks. The National Blood Clot Alliance, in partnership with IPRO, has developed several downloadable materials to help patients understand such risks, and manage their blood thinners, before, during, and after surgical, dental, or other medical procedures.