Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctors: Can I stop taking antiplatelet drugs to have my hip replaced?

Q. I recently had a drug-eluting stent placed in one of my coronary arteries after an episode of severe chest pain. My doctor told me I had to take Plavix every day. Now I feel perfectly fine–except for my right hip. I need a hip replacement, but my orthopedist wants to wait until I'm off Plavix before operating. How long is long enough to be on this drug?

A. A stent is a small cylindrical metal scaffold placed in a coronary artery to hold it open after a blockage has been pushed aside with a balloon. After stenting, it's important to take an antiplatelet drug like clopidogrel (Plavix) to prevent a blood clot from developing inside the stent. Blood-thinning drugs slow down the clotting process, so you would have a lot more bleeding during your hip surgery than you would if you were not on the medication.

Just how long a person should take antiplatelet drugs after stenting is still being debated. If you stop taking them too soon, the concern is that you might develop a blood clot in the stent.

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