An anticoagulant is a commonly prescribed medication that prevents clotting of the blood. Anticoagulants can be prescribed if a person’s blood clots too much, forcing blood vessels to be blocked and leading to conditions such as a stroke or a heart attack. Deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms and atrial fibrillation are all common conditions in which an anticoagulant can be prescribed.
No matter how minor or serious, there are always risks that come with taking prescription drugs—but the most serious risk for anticoagulants is falls in senior citizens. Elderly patients with balance problems are at high risk for falls. When these same patients are also on anticoagulants, the consequences of a fall can be serious. Anticoagulants can increase the risk of a cerebral hemorrhage, and even the mildest of head trauma can cause a fatal cerebral hemorrhage. A person who has a previous history of falls should consider another prescription drug. The risk of falls alone should not automatically disqualify a person from being treated with an anticoagulant, but it is something to think about.
As with any prescription medicine, make sure to talk to your doctor about the drug before you begin taking it. Do not be afraid to voice your questions or concerns, and make sure to follow the dosage instructions carefully—and watch your balance!
Michael L. Craun, M.D., F.A.C.S., is the trauma medical director at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center