Frequent INR testing can reduce future risks

Understanding your treatment

If you are on anticoagulation medication such as warfarin (Coumadin®), it is essential to understand why you are taking it. The primary role of anticoagulation medications is to prevent blood clots. Anticoagulation medications do not dissolve blood clots that have already formed, but they help to prevent them. Taking your medication as prescribed and having your blood tested are important factors in helping you stay healthier and live longer.

People on anticoagulation medication have medical conditions such as atrial fibrillation, thrombophlebitis, and others that increase the possibility of forming blood clots. Taking anticoagulation medication slows down how fast the blood clots, thereby preventing clots from forming in places that could lead to serious problems. The medication works by keeping certain substances in the blood from carrying out the natural processes that form blood clots.

Testing blood

People on these anticoagulation medications, which are often referred to as "blood thinners," must test their blood regularly to ensure that it is within a specific range. It is important to stay within this range, called the therapeutic range, in order to benefit from the medication and to prevent serious health complications, such as stroke or heart attack.

When a person on anticoagulation medication has a blood test, an INR (International Normalized Ratio) value is determined from the results. This INR value allows the doctor to determine how the medication is working and whether the dose you are taking is the right one for you. Adjusting the dosage of the medication helps keep the INR value of the blood in the optimal range to avoid possible complications (e.g., clotting or bleeding).

Benefits of frequent testing

INR values are typically checked at least once a month. However, more frequent testing is recommended in certain situations and can help to better monitor the effects of the medication on the blood. Testing more frequently using a portable self-testing coagulation monitor (e.g., CoaguChek) may help avoid complications related to anticoagulation medication.

Benefits of self-testing include:

  • Increased safety: If the medication is not working effectively, the blood will not be within the therapeutic range . Bleeding (also called hemorrhaging) may occur if the blood is not clotting at all, and a clot may form if it is clotting too much.
  • The comfort of knowing your INR value: If the value is within the optimal range, then the medication is working correctly. If it is outside of the optimal range, the medication is not working effectively, and you can contact your doctor to make the necessary arrangements to change the dosage.
  • More control over personal health: Knowing your INR level on a regular basis allows you to take charge of your health. You are involved with your treatment and can improve your quality of life and help prevent serious complications.
  • Convenience: Avoiding long line-ups in the medical laboratory or at the hospital makes checking your INR levels more convenient and saves time for patients and caregivers.

Frequent testing of the blood to check INR values allows you to better manage your own health. Knowing your INR value empowers you to take action when your INR value is outside of the optimal range. Other members of the healthcare team, including doctors and pharmacists, will assist in returning the INR value to the optimal range.

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