Anticoagulation is the term used to describe the process of interfering with normal blood clot formation (coagulation) using medication (anticoagulants). Anticoagulants (blood-thinners) are commonly used for treating persons with cardiovascular disease and stroke as well other conditions.
Two common anticoagulants that require careful management are: warfarin (Coumadin) and heparin. Warfarin lasts for 72 hours in the blood stream and is given by mouth, while heparin only lasts for a few hours in the blood stream and is given intravenously (IV), or as an injection just under the skin.
Too much anticoagulation can lead to bleeding (hemorrhage) and too little can lead to blood clot formation. Blood tests are, therefore, required to determine the correct dose for each of these medications. Anticoagulant dosages may need to be changed depending on the following:
- individual blood clotting factors
- intake of certain foods, vitamins, and medications
- body weight
- planned medical tests and procedures that carry a risk of bleeding
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recommends anticoagulant dosing protocols (evidence-based formal plans for managing a disease or condition) as an effective tool for helping to keep blood levels of anticoagulants within the desired range for optimal health.