Your Care Explained > Medications : Heparin

Heparin is used to treat or prevent clots in the veins, arteries, lungs or heart. It stops clots from forming or getting bigger.

It is commonly used during open-heart surgery, dialysis, or in patients who are confined to bed.

How Does Heparin Work?

Heparin inhibits the enzymes that orchestrate the blood-clotting process. Although it doesn’t break down clots that already exist, it prevents new ones from forming. It is administered intravenously during medical procedures and by injection to patients on maintenance therapy.

Special Considerations

Because heparin is a powerful anticoagulant, heparin use requires vigilance; it’s important to avoid cuts and bruises and to get treatment at the first signs of bleeding. If you receive heparin in the hospital, you’ll be given a list of side effects to look for. If you are administering heparin at home, you should carry an identification card with your name, the name and dose of medicine(s) being used and the name and phone number of your doctor or person to contact in an emergency.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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