Anticoagulation medicines are given to patients whose blood clots too quickly. When this occurs, blood clots can form in the wrong places, and cause life-threatening injuries such as a stroke or pulmonary embolism. Anticoagulation medicines are designed to thin the blood, making the formation of blood clots within the heart, arterial system and venous system less likely.
There are numerous conditions for which anticoagulation medicines are given. They include patients who have had heart valve replacements; patients who have heart rhythm disorders such as atrial fibrillation; patients who have received a pacemaker; and patients who have blood clotting disorders such as Factor V Leiden. Anticoagulation medications are also given to patients following certain types of surgeries in an effort to protect patients from the formation of blood clots due to patient inactivity during the recuperative period.
There are any different types of anticoagulation medicines. They include warfarin (also known by its brand name, Coumadin), Eliquis, Plavix, Lovenox, Heparin, Xarelto. Aspirin also acts as a blood thinner. Each medication works slightly different, and is administered in different ways..
Anticoagulation medicines unquestionably help patients who have blood clotting disorders. Yet, these medicines do carry risks. One of the most significant risks is that they can cause uncontrolled bleeding. Because the medication is designed to prevent or slow blood clotting, an injury that causes bleeding to occur can become difficult to make the bleeding stop. For this reason, patients who take anticoagulation medicines will often undergo monitoring to ensure that the dosage being used remains within therapeutic range while not exposing to the patient too much risk of hemorrhage. This monitoring typically involves performing INR (international normalized ratio) tests.
In the legal world, we are often asked to investigation cases in which patients suffer an injury involving anticoagulation medicines. The issues that we are asked to investigate can vary. There are cases in which a patient is not prescribed an anticoagulation medication when the patient should have been. The end result can be that the patient developed a blood clot that could have been avoided, and that blood clot resulted in a stroke or pulmonary embolism. There are other cases in which a patient was given too much anticoagulation medicine, and the INR levels of the patient were not properly monitoring.
Risks of Not Restarting Anticoagulants After Surgery
Many people taking an anticoagulant medication are advised to restart the drug the day after surgery due to the risk of blood clots forming and the risk of thromboembolism. However, patients may be advised of another time to restart the drug depending on the type of surgical procedure and their specific risk factors. While many patients who have undergone surgery are provided with superior anticoagulation therapy, there are some patients who fall through the cracks.
Unfortunately, many patients aren’t given great care or they are forgotten about due to the many parties involved in one’s care. Oftentimes doctors assume nurses will handle the restarting of the anticoagulant drug due to the notes in the medical chart, and nurses will expect the doctor to give them direct orders. Because a patient’s healthcare is divided among different people, the restarting of an anticoagulant can be missed.
Anytime a person’s anticoagulant drugs are interrupted, there is a risk of thromboembolism, which is why it is important that the restarting of an anticoagulant isn’t missed. When warfarin or other anticoagulant drugs aren’t restarted in a timely manner after surgery, patients can suffer from blood clots that can block blood flow and cause a stroke or heart attack.
Failing to Restart an Anticoagulant Is Medical Malpractice
In recent years, the legal issue we have seen the most is the failure to restart a patient’s anticoagulation medicines following a brief interruption in treatment. The most common scenario involves a patient who is taking an anticoagulation medicine, but requires surgery. The anticoagulation medicine is stopped for purposes of the surgery, so that the patient does not bleed too much during the surgery. Then following the surgery, the doctors and hospitals intend for the anticoagulation medicine to be re-started, and even order that it be re-started. Tragically though, the order for re-starting the anticoagulation medications is not properly communicated within the hospital setting, or is not properly communicated to the next health care provider in the setting of a nursing home or rehabilitation center. In these circumstances, the patient becomes vulnerable to clot formation, and suffers a resulting stroke or pulmonary embolism.
Our Fairfax Medical Malpractice Lawyers Can Help
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