You’ve heard of people with prior heart attack history being on low-dose aspirin therapy to prevent another heart attack, so doesn’t the same apply to blood clots? Aspirin therapy is designed to thin the blood, right?
Not necessarily, at least not with any guarantee. It is true that aspirin therapy can be effective blood thinning or anticoagulation therapy for some, but not in all situations. It may be considered in scenarios where the development of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clot in a deep vein is not the result of immobility, post-surgical recovery, or other obvious cause.
A couple of studies have shown that aspirin therapy can reduce the risk of recurrent DVTs or pulmonary embolisms (PE) by “more than a third without significantly increasing the risk of bleeding. However, a 2016 study found no difference in the rate of development of venous thromboembolism (VTE) following an orthopedic procedure such as a total hip or knee arthroplasty procedure.
Both a DVT and VTE are, essentially, venous blood clots. The “embolism” defines the status of the clot after it is broken free and travels through the bloodstream. One of the dangers of a blood clot on the move is the potential to block blood flow in the lungs, known as a pulmonary embolism or PE.
What exactly does aspirin do?
Aspirin components also act as an anticoagulant of sorts, but self-diagnosis and taking aspirin on a daily basis to thin the blood is not recommended without the supervision of a physician.
Some medical experts believe that aspirin therapy can be just as effective as more potent (and expensive) blood thinning medications available on the market today for the prevention of certain blood clots, such as those that may develop following an orthopedic procedure such as joint replacement.
Most of the studies in this area focus on patients who have undergone joint replacement therapies, as artificial joints do provoke a higher risk of blood clot development following surgery. Common anticoagulant or blood thinning medications are given to post-surgical patients including Xarelto or heparin. However, aspirin is also an option.
Studies have emphasized that aspirin therapy is given following initial treatment with an anticoagulant medication immediately post-surgery. In the studies, over 700 orthopedic joint replacement patients were placed on a 10-day therapy of heparin, followed by four weeks of low-dose aspirin (81 mg) daily.
In this particular study, a couple of individuals on the aspirin therapy did end up developing a blood clot. Even so, aspirin therapy has been deemed as a safe alternative for some. Studies continue regarding the potential of aspirin to reduce bleeding.
At this point, aspirin therapy as an anticoagulant or preventive for the development of a DVT post-surgery is not a recognized standard of care, but it is something that patients can discuss with their physicians.