What Are Blood Thinners And When Are They Used?

Dr. Becker answers the question: 'What Are Blood Thinners, When Necessary?'

ByABC News
November 19, 2008, 5:23 PM

— -- Question: What are blood thinners and when are they used?

Answer: Blood thinning medicines have been available for over a half century, and they can be defined as medicines that reduce the likelihood of small blood clots forming that may cause a heart attack, a stroke, or cardiovascular death. They include medicines like aspirin, clopidogrel or Plavix, Warfarin -- more commonly known as coumadin -- and a variety of other medications that are used in the hospital setting.

They're used for preventive purposes in individuals that are at risk for a heart attack or stroke. The most commonly used blood thinning medicine in that particular context is aspirin, that has been available for now over a century. And it is known to reduce the likelihood of a heart attack, a stroke, or cardiovascular death in people at risk. And as a result, those are the individuals in whom physicians may recommend aspirin and medications like aspirin.

Aspirin is not designed to be used in all individuals, only those that are known to be at risk, or individuals that have had a prior heart attack, stroke, who have undergone angioplasty or coronary bypass surgery. Other blood thinning medicines are likewise used specifically in those in whom it is known to reduce the likelihood of future events.

Next: Why Do Paramedics Give Patients Aspirin Before They Get To The Hospital? Why Is Aspirin So Important?

Previous: What Are Clot Busters And How Do They Work?