The Associated Press article “Promise seen in implant for stroke” (3/29, A-8) correctly identified medications used to prevent clots from forming in the heart as anti-clotting drugs (warfarin/Coumadin) and not as “blood thinners.”
For decades the media and many in the medical profession have labeled these drugs as blood thinners, which is not only erroneous but creates a misconception for most patients. These agents do not thin the blood as if it were 10-40 oil, but prevent clots from forming in vulnerable areas of the cardiovascular system. Unfortunately when the term “blood thinners” is used, patients often attribute symptoms such as lightheadedness or coldness to “thin blood,” which is obviously a misconception.
The words we use in medicine have a great impact on patient perceptions, and we should strive to describe treatments or test results in accurate but understandable words and phrases. “Blood thinners” is a major violation of this principle and should be discarded in favor of the more accurate terms “anti-clotting” or “anticoagulant” drugs.
Robert D. Conn, M.D.
Cardiovascular Consultants, Mid America Heart Institute, St. Luke’s Hospital