Anticoagulant Medications for the Prevention and Treatment of Thromboembolism

Lori Brien
AACN Advanced Critical Care 2019, 30 (2): 126-138
Venous thromboembolism is a preventable medical condition associated with significant morbidity and mortality. It can lead to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and stroke. Thrombi develop when intravascular conditions promote activation of the coagulation system or when there is an imbalance between endogenous anticoagulants and procoagulants. Such conditions include vascular injury, inflammation, venous stasis, and hypercoagulable states. Anticoagulant medications are indicated for the prevention and treatment of venous thromboembolism. They exert their effect on clotting factors to prevent the formation of thrombi or the propagation of an existing clot. Historically, anticoagulants were limited to heparins and vitamin K antagonists. Over the past 15 years, however, several new anticoagulant medications have been introduced. This article describes commonly prescribed and newer anticoagulants available to health care professionals, including their mechanism of action, therapeutic use, unique characteristics, and available reversal agents in the event of life-threatening bleeding.

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