Skip to Main Content


The drugs used in clotting and bleeding disorders fall into 2 major groups: (1) drugs used to decrease clotting or dissolve clots already present in patients at risk for vascular occlusion and (2) drugs used to increase clotting in patients with clotting deficiencies. The first group, the anticlotting drugs, includes some of the most commonly used drugs in the United States. Anticlotting drugs are used in the treatment and prevention of myocardial infarction and other acute coronary syndromes, atrial fibrillation, ischemic stroke, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Within the anticlotting group, the anticoagulant and thrombolytic drugs are effective in treatment of both venous and arterial thrombosis, whereas antiplatelet drugs are used primarily for treatment of arterial disease.

Image not available.


A. Classification

Anticoagulants inhibit the formation of fibrin clots. Three major types of anticoagulants are available: heparin and related products, which must be used parenterally; direct thrombin and factor X inhibitors, which are used parenterally or orally; and the orally active coumarin derivatives (eg, warfarin). Comparative properties of the heparins and warfarin are shown in Table 34–1.

TABLE 34–1Properties of heparins and warfarin.
B. Heparin
1. Chemistry

Heparin is a large sulfated polysaccharide polymer obtained from animal sources. Each batch contains molecules of varying size, with an average molecular weight of 15,000–20,000. Heparin is highly acidic and can be neutralized by basic molecules (eg, protamine). Heparin is given intravenously or subcutaneously to avoid the risk of hematoma associated with intramuscular injection.

Low-molecular-weight (LMW) fractions of heparin (eg, enoxaparin) have molecular weights of 2000–6000. LMW heparins have greater bioavailability and longer durations of action than unfractionated heparin; thus, doses can be given less frequently (eg, once or twice a day). They are given subcutaneously. Fondaparinux is a small synthetic drug that contains the biologically active pentasaccharide present in unfractionated and LMW heparins. It is administered subcutaneously once daily.

Favorite Table | Download (.pdf) | Print
High-Yield Terms to Learn
Activated partial thromboplastin time ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.