Should you stop anti-clotting drugs before a procedure?

Because many factors are involved, make sure your doctors talk to each other if you need an invasive test or procedure.


Image: © thodonal/Thinkstock

Millions of people with cardiovascular disease take drugs that help prevent blood clots, which can lodge in a vessel and choke off part of the blood supply to a leg, a lung, or the brain. These potentially lifesaving medications, known generally as anticoagulants, include warfarin (Coumadin) and a class of drugs called non–vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants, or NOACs (see "Anti-clotting drugs: The old and the new").

However, if you're taking one of these drugs and need an invasive procedure — anything from a tooth extraction to a hip replacement — managing the risks can be tricky, says cardiologist Dr. Gregory Piazza, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "There's a higher-than-normal risk of bleeding during and after the procedure, because your blood doesn't clot as easily," he says.

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 »