When you are healing from an injury, your blood clots because of platelets—cell fragments in blood that clump together to prevent bleeding, such as the protective scab that forms where you are cut or scraped. But platelets can also clump where there is plaque (the build-up of fat and cholesterol) in the arteries that supply blood to your heart, which can contribute to a heart attack, stroke or other problems.
Antiplatelet therapy is prescribed for patients who have coronary artery disease (CAD), carotid artery disease or peripheral artery disease (PAD) and to patients who have had a heart attack or stroke. It is critically important for patients who have received a stent. Without medication, blood clots (thrombosis) can form around the stent and block blood flow or break free and cause a blockage elsewhere in the body, resulting in a heart attack, stroke or even death. Current guidelines developed by the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) in conjunction with other key cardiology associations recommend that patients who receive a bare metal stent be on aspirin and an antiplatelet medicine such as Plavix, Effient, or Brilinta for at least a month after the procedure. Patients who receive drug-eluting (coated) stents are recommended to take aspirin and one of these antiplatelet medications for at least a year after stent implantation.
Taking aspirin and a second antiplatelet medication, such as Plavix, Effient, or Brilinta, is called dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT). If you are a patient who is about to undergo a medical procedure with a physician other than the cardiologist who prescribed DAPT for you, be sure to talk with both doctors. Guidelines about DAPT and procedures can change, so it is important to stay up to date. For example, new recommendations say that stent patients do not have to discontinue DAPT for gastrointestinal endoscopic procedures.
Learn more about antiplatelet therapy and tips to help you take your medicines as directed by downloading "What You Need to Know: Antiplatelet Therapy." SCAI gratefully acknowledges the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association for providing this content.