Heart Beat: Heparin: a risky bridge over troubled waters?

Heart Beat

Heparin: a risky bridge over troubled waters?

Published: May, 2008

Warfarin keeps blood from clotting where it shouldn't, such as in a chamber of the heart, on a heart valve, or inside unbroken blood vessels. Millions of people take warfarin (Coumadin, generic) to prevent a clot-caused stroke, pulmonary embolism, or deep-vein thrombosis.

It isn't yet clear how best to handle warfarin when a colonoscopy, oral surgery, cataract removal, or other minor surgery is needed. There are three options "" stay on warfarin (which increases the chances of bleeding during the procedure and for awhile afterward); stop taking warfarin for a few days before and after the procedure (which increases the chances of having a stroke or pulmonary embolism); or temporarily replace warfarin with heparin or another short-acting anticoagulant "bridge" (which increases the chances of bleeding).

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • 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

New subscriptions to Harvard Health Online are temporarily unavailable. Click the button below to learn about our other subscription offers.

Learn More »