Is there any harm in taking long-term, low-dose warfarin for an extended period after an episode of deep vein thrombosis?
Answers from Martha Grogan, M.D.
Warfarin (Coumadin) is a blood-thinning medication (anticoagulant) used to treat and prevent blood clots. For most people with a single episode of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), treatment with full-dose blood thinners is usually for only a limited time. Taking warfarin at a high dose for a longer period of time is only recommended for people who are at a high risk of developing blood clots that could cause a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism.
Long-term, low-dose treatment with warfarin may prevent future episodes of DVT, but it's not without risk. There's a risk of serious or even fatal bleeding — especially when warfarin is taken in high doses or for long periods of time.
Ask your doctor to help you weigh the benefits and risks of long-term, low-dose warfarin therapy in your case. Also consider these self-care measures to prevent future episodes of DVT:
- Avoid sitting, squatting or crossing your legs for long periods of time.
- If you must sit for long periods, such as during a plane or car trip, take a short walk every hour or two. It also helps to flex your ankles, curl your toes and tap your feet frequently.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Wear support hosiery or compression stockings, available at medical supply stores.
If you're taking warfarin to prevent blood clots that could cause a heart attack or stroke, make sure you take it exactly as prescribed. Warfarin is a powerful medication that can have dangerous side effects.
Mar. 17, 2011
- Kearon C. Balancing risks and benefits of extended anticoagulant therapy for idiopathic venous thrombosis. Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis. 2009;7:296.
- Kearon C, et al. Influence of thrombophilia on risk of recurrent venous thromboembolism while on warfarin: Results from a randomized trial. Blood. 2008;112:4432.
- Rodger M, et al. Unprovoked venous thromboembolism: Short-term or indefinite anticoagulation? Balancing long-term risk and benefit. Blood Reviews. 2010;24:171.