Your doctor will give you medicine to thin your blood (called an anticoagulant). This will keep more clots from forming or old ones from getting bigger.
Heparin is usually the first drug you will receive.
- If heparin is given through a vein (IV), you must stay in the hospital.
- Newer forms of heparin can be given by injection under your skin once or twice a day. You may not need to stay in the hospital as long, or at all, if you are prescribed this newer form of heparin.
Depending on your medical history, fondaparinux may be recommended by your doctor as an alternative to heparin.
A blood-thinning drug, for example warfarin (Coumadin), is usually started along with heparin.
- Warfarin is taken by mouth. It takes several days to fully work.
- Heparin is not stopped until the warfarin has been at the right dose for at least 2 days.
- You will most likely take warfarin for at least 3 months. Some people must take it longer, or even for the rest of their lives, depending on their risk for another clot.
When you are taking warfarin, you are more likely to bleed, even from activities you have always done. If you are taking warfarin at home:
- Take the medicine just the way your doctor prescribed it.
- Ask the doctor what to do if you miss a dose.
- Get blood tests as advised by your doctor to make sure you are taking the right dose.
- Learn how to take other medicines and when to eat.
- Find out how to watch for problems caused by the drug.
You will be given a pressure stocking to wear on your leg or legs. A pressure stocking improves blood flow in your legs and reduces your risk for complications from blood clots. It is important to wear it every day.
In rare cases, you may need surgery if medicines do not work. Surgery may involve:
- Placing a filter in the body's largest vein to prevent blood clots from traveling to the lungs
- Removing a large blood clot from the vein or injecting clot-busting medicines