Anticoagulants and Subdural Hematomas

Anticoagulants, also commonly known as “blood-thinners”, are medications that prevent clot formation in the blood. Heart attacks, stroke, and other similar diseases are caused by unwanted clots. Thus, by taking blood-thinners, the chance of clot formation or clot enlargement is significantly reduced. Since the discovery and conception of blood-thinners, millions of lives have been saved and the lifestyle of people have improved drastically. The most commonly prescribed blood-thinner in the U.S. is warfarin, or better known by its brand name Coumadin.

While blood-thinners do significantly reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke, they pose a significant risk when the blood vessel cannot repair itself and the patient bleeds uncontrollably. Because the blood-thinner slows down the process of blood clotting, excessive bleeding cannot be stopped quickly and can be dangerous. With excessive bleeding in the brain, a large pool of blood can form and produce a high pressure on the brain, shutting-off important areas vital for survival and eventually killing the patient. One common form of this condition is known as a subdural hematoma. This is essentially a pool of blood right on top of the brain’s outer layer which is very deadly and needs immediate operation.

As a result, blood-thinners like warfarin are a double-edge sword; it can save lives, but also put lives at risk for subdural hematomas and other fatal conditions. When taking these types of drugs, people, especially the elderly, should be careful and avoid very physical activities; something as simple as a fall or a knock on the head could potentially break a blood vessel.