AskDefine | Define anticoagulant

Dictionary Definition

anticoagulant n : medicine that prevents or retards the clotting of blood [syn: anticoagulant medication, decoagulant]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. (Medicine)An agent that slows or stops coagulation of the blood
  2. a substance that prevents coagulation from occurring.


  1. acting as an anticoagulant

Extensive Definition

An anticoagulant is a substance that prevents coagulation; that is, it stops blood from clotting. A group of pharmaceuticals called anticoagulants can be used in vivo as a medication for thrombotic disorders. Some chemical compounds are used in medical equipment, such as test tubes, blood transfusion bags, and renal dialysis equipment. They also have military applications, whereby their introduction into the wounds of enemy soldiers will make their treatment significantly more difficult.

As medications

Anticoagulants are given to people to stop thrombosis (blood clotting inappropriately in the blood vessels). This is useful in primary and secondary prevention of deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, myocardial infarctions and strokes in those who are predisposed.

Vitamin K antagonists

The oral anticoagulants are a class of pharmaceuticals that act by antagonizing the effects of vitamin K. Examples include warfarin. It is important to note that they take at least 48 to 72 hours for the anticoagulant effect to develop fully. In cases when any immediate effect is required, heparin must be given concomitantly. Generally, these anticoagulants are used to treat patients with deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE), atrial fibrillation (AF), and mechanical prosthetic heart valves.

Adverse effects

Patients aged 80 years or more may be especially susceptible to bleeding complications with a rate of 13 bleeds per 100 person-years.
These oral anticoagulants are used widely as poisons for mammalian pests, especially rodents. (For details, see rodenticide and warfarin.)

Available agents

Heparin and derivative substances

Heparin is a biological substance, usually made from pig intestines. It works by activating antithrombin III, which blocks thrombin from clotting blood. Heparin can be used in vivo (by injection), and also in vitro to prevent blood or plasma clotting in or on medical devices. Vacutainer brand test tubes containing heparin are usually colored green.

Low molecular weight heparin

Low molecular weight heparin is a more highly processed product that is useful as it does not require monitoring of the APTT coagulation parameter (it has more predictable plasma levels) and has fewer side effects.

Synthetic pentasaccharide inhibitors of factor Xa

  • Fondaparinux is a synthetic sugar composed of the five sugars (pentasaccharide) in heparin that bind to antithrombin. It is a smaller molecule than low molecular weight heparin.
  • Idraparinux

Major pharmaceutical Heparin recall due to contamination

In March 2008 major recalls of Heparin were announced by pharmaceuticals due to a suspected and unknown contamination of the raw Heparin stock imported from China . The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was quoted as stating that at least 19 deaths were believed linked to a raw Heparin ingredient imported from the People's Republic of China, and that they had also received 785 reports of serious injuries associated with the drug’s use. According to the New York Times: 'Problems with heparin reported to the agency include difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, excessive sweating and rapidly falling blood pressure that in some cases led to life-threatening shock'.

Direct thrombin inhibitors

Another type of anticoagulant is the direct thrombin inhibitor. Current members of this class include argatroban, lepirudin, and bivalirudin. An oral direct thrombin inhibitor, ximelagatran (Exanta) was denied approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2004 and was pulled from the market entirely in February 2006 after reports of severe liver damage and heart attacks.

Anticoagulants outside the body

Laboratory instruments, test tubes, blood transfusion bags, and medical and surgical equipment will get clogged up and become nonoperational if blood is allowed to clot. Chemicals can be added to stop blood clotting. Apart from heparin, most of these chemicals work by binding calcium ions, preventing the coagulation proteins from using them.
  • EDTA is denoted by mauve or purple caps on Vacutainer brand test tubes. This chemical strongly and irreversibly binds calcium. It is in a powdered form.
  • Citrate is usually in blue Vacutainer tube. It is in liquid form in the tube and is used for coagulation tests, as well as in blood transfusion bags. It gets rid of the calcium, but not as strongly as EDTA. Correct proportion of this anticoagulant to blood is crucial because of the dilution. It can be in the form of sodium citrate or ACD.
  • Oxalate has a similar mechanism to citrate. It is the anticoagulant used in fluoride (grey top) tubes.
For the meaning of more colors, see Vacutainer#including coagulants.


anticoagulant in Catalan: Anticoagulant
anticoagulant in German: Antikoagulation
anticoagulant in Spanish: Anticoagulante
anticoagulant in Basque: Antikoagulante
anticoagulant in French: Anticoagulant
anticoagulant in Italian: Anticoagulante
anticoagulant in Dutch: Anticoagulans
anticoagulant in Japanese: 抗凝固薬
anticoagulant in Norwegian Nynorsk: Antikoagulant
anticoagulant in Polish: Leki przeciwzakrzepowe
anticoagulant in Portuguese: Anticoagulante
anticoagulant in Russian: Антикоагулянты
anticoagulant in Serbian: Антикоагуланс
anticoagulant in Finnish: Antikoagulantti
anticoagulant in Swedish: Antikoagulantia
anticoagulant in Turkish: Antikoagülan
anticoagulant in Ukrainian: Антикоагулянт
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