Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: How long do I need to keep taking Plavix?

Ask the doctor

How long do I need to keep taking Plavix?

Q. I need to catheterize myself because of bladder problems. In April 2007, I had five stents put in my heart and started taking Plavix. Since then, I sometimes see a light tinge of blood in the catheter bag, though lately the blood flow has been more substantial. The book Worst Pills, Best Pills says Plavix should be used for only a limited time, but my internist tells me I should be on it for the rest of my life. I am 88 years old and take aspirin (325 mg) every day. How long will I need to take Plavix?

A. Your question goes to the heart of one of cardiology's biggest controversies "" how long to take clopidogrel (Plavix) after getting a stent. I am guessing from what your internist told you that you received drug-coated stents, not the bare-metal variety. Current guidelines say to take Plavix and aspirin every day for a month after getting a bare-metal stent and daily for at least a year after getting a drug-coated stent to prevent blood clots from forming inside a stent. Called late stent thrombosis, such clots can cause a heart attack or cardiac arrest.

If you had asked this question a few months after getting your stents, your doctors would have recommended (and I would have agreed) that you should keep taking Plavix and aspirin in spite of the bleeding during catheterization. By now, though, you have been taking the two drugs past the point at which we know for certain that the combination is beneficial.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »