Anticoagulants for Pulmonary Embolism
Why It Is Used
In people who have had Reference pulmonary embolism Opens New Window, anticoagulants are used to prevent more blood clots from forming and causing another episode of pulmonary embolism. They are used in the hospital as first treatment of a pulmonary embolism. And they also may be used at home. Treatment with anticoagulants may continue throughout your life if your risk of having another pulmonary embolism remains high.
Heparin is given as an injection. It immediately affects the clotting system in your body.
- Low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) as initial treatment is usually preferred because it can be given as an injection once or twice per day, and it may be given at home, which allows you to leave the hospital earlier. Blood tests are not usually needed to monitor LMWH's clotting effect.
- Unfractionated heparin is another form that can be used. It is given in the hospital. Unfractionated heparin is usually given continuously through your vein (intravenously, or IV), but it can also be given as an injection under the skin. Frequent blood tests are used to monitor the clotting effects of this medicine.
Warfarin is taken as a pill. Warfarin is usually started while a person is still being treated with heparin because it takes several days for warfarin to build up to a level that's effective. When warfarin is at the right level in your blood, you stop taking heparin shots and keep taking warfarin pills.
Typically, warfarin is given for at least 3 months after pulmonary embolism to reduce the risk of having another blood clot. If you have a high risk of another pulmonary embolism, you may take warfarin for the rest of your life.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: May 14, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Jeffrey S. Ginsberg, MD - Hematology