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What Are the Pros and Cons of Long-Term Anticoagulation?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Anticoagulation is a process that involves inhibiting the ability of the blood to clot or coagulate. This is sometimes necessary in the treatment of certain types of illnesses, both short- and long-term ailments. While long-term anticoagulation using drug therapy can be very helpful in managing certain ongoing health issues, there are some potential dangers with this type of treatment.

One of the main benefits of long-term anticoagulation is the ability to ease pressure on the heart by reducing blood pressure. This benefit can mean that the risk of heart attack is greatly reduced. A number of the medications used to treat chronic high blood pressure do have anticoagulant properties that make the use of the medication effective over the long term. As long as the medication is taken according to the physician’s instructions and monitoring for any side effects is taking place, it is possible to use those drugs for long-term anticoagulation.

Long-term anticoagulation is also often beneficial in the case of a heart transplant that involves either a donor heart or an artificial organ. In both cases, using drugs to prevent the blood from coagulating means that the possibility of clot development which could lead to a heart attack is reduced. As a result, the patient is able to enjoy a higher quality of life for as long as the new heart continues to function.

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While there are benefits to long-term coagulation, there are also liabilities that must be considered. The blood thinning properties of the medications used to manage the prevention of clotting could create conditions that have an adverse impact on the function of the brain. Those effects may manifest as increased forgetfulness or even impact how the brain communicates with the nervous system. In addition, the increased chance of bleeding due to an injury is very real. Unless steps are taken to help staunch the bleeding, there is the that the patient could die from a loss of blood instead of the injury itself.

With any type of long-term anticoagulation treatment, the benefits realized by the patient must be balanced against an risk factors. This includes determining if the patient is experiencing negative side effects related to the medications used, or to the thinning of the blood in particular. Often, changing medications or adjusting the dosage will help minimize side effects such as feeling weak or faint, and also reduce the chances of sustaining any loss in brain function while undergoing the treatments.

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