Who can take warfarin?
Warfarin is prescribed for people who have a medical condition that puts them at risk of developing dangerous clots. Warfarin may also be prescribed for people who already have a clot — to prevent it from getting bigger and breaking off.
Clots or broken-off pieces of clot can get lodged in certain parts of the body and block blood supply to the brain, heart or lungs or other important organs, such as the gut (gastrointestinal tract). When a clot or part of a clot blocks a blood vessel this is called a thromboembolism.
The benefits of warfarin
Clots in blood vessels can cause stroke, heart attacks or other life-threatening conditions that can result in death or severe disability. This means the overall benefit of warfarin is to help save lives and prevent disability in people who are at risk of developing harmful clots.
In the following video, Dr John Worthington explains what atrial fibrillation is and how it can cause a stroke.
Conditions treated with warfarin
Libby explains what atrial fibrillation (AF) is, and why she takes warfarin to prevent clots that could cause a stroke.
Warfarin may be prescribed to prevent or treat clots in people with:
- atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes an irregular heartbeat and increases stroke risk
- artificial (prosthetic) heart valves (in combination with either aspirin or dipyridamole)
- a previous heart attack that causes or increases the risk of clot formation in the heart
- a high risk of stroke or who have had a previous stroke caused by a blood clot
- venous thromboembolism (VTE), which includes two conditions: deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — where a clot forms in a deep vein of the body, commonly in the leg and pulmonary embolism — where a clot (usually in the leg) has broken off and travelled to the lungs.
If you are unsure why you or someone you care for is taking warfarin, ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information, or read the consumer medicine information (CMI) that is available from your pharmacist.
Watch our video, in which Dr John Worthington talks about how warfarin can reduce the risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation.
- Gallus AS, Baker RI, Chong BH et al. Consensus guidelines for warfarin therapy. Med J Aust 2000; 172 (12): 600–5. www.mja.com.au/public/issues/172_12_190600/gallus/gallus.html (accessed 24 April 2012).
- Borosak M, Choo S, Street A. Warfarin: balancing the benefits and harms. Aust Prescr 2004;27:88–92. www.australianprescriber.com/magazine/27/4/88/92/ (accessed 24 April 2012).
- Cardiovascular Expert Group. Therapeutic guidelines: Cardiovascular. Version 5. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd; 2008. www.tg.org.au (accessed 24 April 2012).