An anticoagulant is a drug used to inhibit blood clotting, reducing the formation of blood clots. Anticoagulants are prescribed in a variety of different cases to treat and prevent heart disease, stroke and deep vein thrombosis. Anticoagulants are commonly used to reduce the risk of blood clots in patients who have undergone surgery to install an artificial heart valve, or those who suffer from atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm).

It is important to note that blood clotting is a normal process that allows blood to form a clot when an injury occurs, thus stopping the bleeding. However, clotting can also be harmful if a clot forms without an injury, leading to potentially life-threatening complications such as stroke, myocardial infarction, deep vein thrombosis, or pulmonary embolism.

Anticoagulants work by inhibiting blood clotting, slowing or preventing the formation of blood clots. Commonly used anticoagulants include warfarin, acenocoumarol, and thrombin inhibitors.

Anticoagulants can be prescribed for a variety of conditions, including victims who have suffered a heart attack or have heart disease such as cardiomyopathy. Anticoagulants may also be prescribed for victims who are at increased risk of developing blood clots due to factors such as age, smoking, or a sedentary lifestyle.

Anticoagulants are important medications used to prevent and treat heart disease, stroke, and deep vein thrombosis. They can be prescribed for a variety of different conditions, and it is important to follow a doctor's instructions and to carefully monitor the potential side effects associated with these medications.


Definition and Meaning

Anticoagulants are medications that prevent blood clots from forming in the body. Blood clots can be dangerous because they can block blood vessels and lead to serious complications, such as pulmonary embolism or stroke. Anticoagulants are often used to prevent or treat blood clots in people with cardiovascular disease, blood clotting disorders or who have had surgery. The most commonly prescribed anticoagulants include warfarin, heparins and newer oral anticoagulants such as dabigatran and apixaban.

Types of anticoagulants

Anticoagulants can be given by...

Intravenous injection or infusion

This method is used to administer heparin (Calciparin®).

Its action is very rapid.

Oral route in tablet form

This is the most common method of administration.

Its effects are fully felt after two or three days.

Oral anticoagulants are categorized into 2 classes:

Antivitamin K (AVK): used for atrial fibrillation (valvular or non-valvular)

includes warfarin, marketed under the name Coumadin®.

Direct-acting (DAA): used for non-valvular atrial fibrillation.

Includes apixaban (Eliquis®), rivaroxaban (Xarelto®), dabigatran (Pradaxa®) and edoxaban (Lixiana®)

(Haute Autorité de Santé, 2013 and Heart and Stroke Foundation, n.d.)

Of course, the choice of which type of anticoagulants to prescribe depends on several factors including:

Medical reason for need;


Kidney health;

Other medications taken at the same time.

Side effects

Taking this type of medication can lead to bleeding, most often from the nose (epistaxis). This bleeding is usually mild and temporary, but in some cases it can worsen into serious bleeding disorders. It is therefore very important to follow the dosage and medical recommendations. It is also important to follow up regularly with a physician.

Bleeding can occur in many places in the body and can manifest itself in different ways, including the following signs or symptoms

Blood in the urine (pink or reddish urine);

Black or bloody stools;

Vomiting that is brown (coffee bean-like) or contains blood;

Unusual bruising (e.g., appearing for no reason);

Red sputum when coughing;

Severe pain in the head or abdomen;

A cut that keeps bleeding. 

Of course, you should contact a health care professional immediately if you experience unusual bleeding.

Interaction with other medications

Some prescription, over-the-counter and natural products can interact with anticoagulant drugs and affect their effectiveness. It is therefore very important to tell the pharmacist about all other medications you are taking. The term "all other medications" refers to any product used to treat a condition or to produce an effect on the body. For example, it also includes creams and ointments, homeopathic medicines and probiotics.

(Jean Coutu, n.d. and Heart and Stroke Foundation, n.d.)

Index: anticoagulant

Some very important precautions

Anyone taking anticoagulants should :

Be careful to avoid activities that could cause injury and shock. If this happens, contact a health care professional, especially if the injury is to the head.

Be especially careful when using sharp objects, such as scissors or a knife.

An electric razor should be used instead of a blade.

In case of a cut, apply pressure to the wound, ideally with a sterile compress, until the bleeding stops.

Brush your teeth more gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush to reduce the risk of bleeding gums.