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What Are the Benefits of Anticoagulation for Pulmonary Embolism?

By Jessica F. Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Anticoagulation for pulmonary embolism is one of the primary treatments for this disorder and the benefits of blood thinners generally outweigh the severity of the risks. Pulmonary embolism is almost exclusively caused by a blood clot traveling from another part of the body to the lungs and blocking connecting arteries. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clots that form deep within the vein, is the name of the disorder that may lead to a pulmonary embolism. This disorder can be fatal; anticoagulation for pulmonary embolism is generally an immediate treatment response used by most medical professionals.

Most cases generally require immediate medical attention and short-term hospitalization usually increases the benefits of anticoagulation for pulmonary embolism. The first step of treatment is typically the intravenous administration of heparin, a fast-acting anticoagulant, to the patient. This is generally continued for several days to decrease blood clots and promote circulation. Depending on the severity of the pulmonary embolism, other treatments may be required including clot removal through catheter suction, vein filter, and surgical removal of multiple clots. In extreme cases, anticoagulation for pulmonary embolism can significantly decrease the blood clots that cause highly uncomfortable symptoms including sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.

Many cases result in continued use of anticoagulants and the patient may be required to administer medications at home. Two of the most common post-hospitalization medications prescribed are Lovenox® and Coumadin® which are generally used together to prevent further clotting. Lovenox® is a series of self-injections that the patient administers in the stomach area several inches from the bellybutton while Coumadin® is generally taken in pill form. Both medications are required to continue anticoagulant use indefinitely and the length of treatment generally depends on the individual case.

Although the use of anticoagulation for pulmonary embolism significantly increases the risk of bleeding, there are many precautions a patient can take to decrease risks. Several topical preventions to avoid the risk of bleeding include using an electric razor, wearing protective clothing including gloves and shoes, and using a soft-bristled toothbrush. In addition to the prevention of bleeding, there are also ways to increase the benefits of anticoagulant therapy including regular blood tests to monitor levels and avoiding vitamin-K rich foods that may interfere with the medications. Some foods that should be avoided include asparagus, spinach, cranberry juice, and lettuce.

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