Intermountain Healthcare

Blood Thinners Can Lead to Injury if Prevention Not Heeded


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/12/2021 --New technologies and pharmaceuticals continually advance medical knowledge of how to keep the brain in good working order. Blood-thinning medications that are prescribed for vascular disease, to help prevent stroke, or prevent dangerous blot clots within veins that can move to the lungs.

Blood thinners can be lifesaving but are not without risk. People taking blood thinners are more susceptible to brain bleeds caused by injury or hemorrhagic stroke.

"Head injuries are common in car accidents, bicycle crashes, and falls," said Dr. Berkeley Bate, a neurosurgeon at Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital and physician with Intermountain Medical Group. "For people on blood thinners, any head injury — even a fall from ground level — can be dangerous. A non-event head injury in someone taking a blood thinner can cause a brain bleed causing blood to collect on the outside or inside of the brain in a hematoma."

A hematoma of the brain causes symptoms similar to that of stroke. Left untreated, permanent brain damage may result. Since blood thinners slow the natural clotting of blood, dangerous bleeding can occur and make it difficult to surgically treat brain bleeds or brain hematoma.

Individuals on blood thinners should be cautious about high-risk activities that can result in head injury. Proper safety gear, such as a bike helmet when cycling is an absolute must.

"Individuals on blood thinners who hit their heads should be screened by a healthcare professional to rule out brain bleeds," said Dr. Bate. "The symptoms of a brain bleed are similar to stroke, though sometimes not as sudden. Problems with language and balance, weakness in extremities, cognitive difficulties, and lack of coordination even a few weeks after a hard bump to the head could indicate a brain bleed."

Even falls from ground level can be dangerous for people taking blood thinners. Falls are the leading cause of head injury among older adults. Safety measures such as wearing shoes, installing handrails in and near showers, removing loose rugs that could become tripping hazards, and using a cane or walker when necessary, will all help prevent falls and possible head injury. A significant brain bleed caused by a simple fall in someone taking blood thinners can be dangerous and life-threatening.

"A brain hematoma causes pressure within the cranial vault," Dr. Bate said. "Too much pressure will cause damage to vital areas of the brain. The life-saving blood thinning medication can become life-threatening as the brain bleed continues and emergency surgery to stop the bleed may not be possible."

When taking blood thinners, be sure to discuss the management of bleeding risk with a health care professional. Fortunately, new medications have been approved by the FDA as an antidote to certain blood thinning medications making surgery and other medical interventions much safer.

Dr. Bate said, "These medications act as an agent or antidote to reverse bleeding in people taking specific blood thinners making it possible to more safely operate on a significant brain bleed or brain hematoma. This is a very big deal. It will save lives."

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Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,600 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.