OHSU

Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet Agents

Anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents are medicines that make your blood less likely to clot in an artery, vein or your heart. Blood clots in these areas can cause stroke and even death.

Anticoagulants (also called "blood thinners") are medicines that slow down blood clotting. Two examples are heparin and warfarin (brand name Coumadin). Anticoagulants make it harder for clots to form or keep existing clots from getting larger in your heart, veins or arteries. You take anticoagulant medicines with a doctor's supervision, and you should only take them for as long as the doctor says you need them.

Antiplatelet medicines keep blood clots from forming by preventing cells in your blood called platelets from sticking together. They're used as part of the treatment for people with atherosclerosis (deposits of fat and other material in blood vessels that make clots more likely). They are also used for people whose blood is more likely to form clots.

Your doctor usually prescribes antiplatelet medication to prevent a stroke. If your doctor knows you have atherosclerosis but your artery is not yet blocked, you might take antiplatelet medication. Antiplatelet medicines include:

  • Aspirin
  • Ticlopidine
  • Clopidogrel
  • Dipyridamole

Aspirin is an important anti-stroke treatment. If you have heart problems, or if you had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), aspirin can save your life.

If your doctor or other healthcare provider prescribes aspirin, you should take it as prescribed. If you have any questions about aspirin or other anti-stroke medications, ask your doctor or other healthcare provider right away.

Anticoagulant and antiplatelet medicine factsheet