Was My Blood Thinner Injury Due To Malpractice Or A Side Effect?

Was My Blood Thinner Injury Due To Malpractice Or A Side Effect?

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The term "blood thinner" can refer to about a dozen different drugs used to slow or prevent clots from forming. These drugs can have serious potential side effects, and if they're not prescribed or used correctly, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Why Are Blood Thinners Prescribed?

Blood thinners are prescribed to patients who are at an increased risk of their blood forming clots where it shouldn't. The most common reasons for being prescribed a blood thinner are:

  • atrial fibrillation - a type of irregular heartbeat
  • following the placement of a stent (a tube to hold open a blood vessel), or heart valve replacement
  • a history of heart attack, stroke, or blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism) or legs (deep vein thrombosis)
  • As a preventative measure after a procedure that limits movement, as clots in the legs become more common when you're unable to walk

Each type of medical condition has a preferred blood thinner. Patients can be on these medications while hospitalized or at home and may take them for days, years, or the rest of their life.

What Side Effects Are Expected?

The most commonly prescribed blood thinner (and the one with the most side effects) is a drug called warfarin (Coumadin). It has been on the market for almost 70 years and is the most affordable prescription blood thinner on the market.

While warfarin has been the gold standard for years, it's not without significant risks. Warfarin's effectiveness can vary depending on diet and other medications you're taking, and drug interactions (with prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements) are incredibly common. Because of this, frequent blood tests are required, and dosage adjustments can be frequent.

At appropriate dosages, most people tolerate warfarin well. Some bleeding, such as bruising that's more significant than you might expect or bleeding for longer than normal when you cut yourself, is a risk. But it is typically not life-threatening unless the injury is serious. However, when the dosage of warfarin is too high, bleeding becomes a major concern. Even things that would typically not be worrisome (such as menstrual bleeding) can become deadly if the antidote isn't taken promptly.

Several newer blood thinners are now being recommended over warfarin because they have fewer (if any) dosage adjustments and minimal drug and food interactions. The most common of these drugs are apixaban (Eliquis), dabigatran (Pradaxa), enoxaparin (Lovenox), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), clopidogrel (Plavix), and ticagrelor (Brilinta). These drugs all have the same risk of potential bleeding, but it's typically less problematic than with warfarin. Blood tests aren't required for these medications, making them more convenient, but they also tend to be more expensive than warfarin and are not affordable for all patients.

With all blood thinners, your doctor should warn you to watch for the following symptoms of severe bleeding:

  • Heavier-than-normal menstrual periods
  • Blood in urine or stool (may look black)
  • Prolonged bleeding from gums or nose
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood (may look like coffee grounds)
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Severe headache or stomach ache

Other possible side effects (such as miscarriage, rash, jaundice, and hair loss) are also possible depending on which medication you're prescribed.

Was My Injury Just a Side Effect?

Because bleeding is a side effect of all blood thinners, any injury caused by excessive bleeding could be considered a side effect. This includes even extreme examples such as a stroke, internal bleeding from an ulcer, or a brain injury due to excessive bleeding after a relatively minor concussion. The real question isn't "Was this a side effect?" but whether a doctor or other healthcare provider could have done something to reduce or eliminate the risk of the side effect occurring or decrease its severity. Sometimes, side effects, even life-threatening bleeds, are unavoidable. But sometimes, a dosing error or miscommunication, even if it seems innocuous, can have life-threatening consequences.

How Can I Know if I'm a Victim of Malpractice?

While bleeding injuries are always a possibility, some things can be done to reduce the risks. Some important questions to ask if you've suffered from a severe bleeding event:

  • Did the doctor or pharmacist inform you of any necessary diet modifications?
  • Was your medication list examined for drug interactions?
  • Did your doctor adjust your dosage to account for your age, weight, or kidney function?
  • Did your doctor or pharmacist warn you to avoid any over-the-counter medications or supplements?
  • Were you provided with literature about the medication you were prescribed?
  • If you've been taking a blood thinner for a while, did your doctor and pharmacist screen for drug interactions before you started another medication?
  • Did your doctor inform you about the potential for severe bleeding and tell you when it's important to seek medical assistance?
  • If indicated for your blood thinner, have you had blood tests and dosage adjustments at the recommended times?
  • If your warfarin tablet is a different color than last time, were you expecting a dosage change?

All of the above questions are essential to ask yourself. If you've had a severe bleeding event, answering "no" to even one of the above questions could indicate that you may be a victim of medical malpractice on the part of your doctor, a hospital, and/or your pharmacist. 

It is important to note that doctors and pharmacists cannot be held accountable for drug interactions if you haven't given them your medication list. Don't be afraid to ask, "I'm on a blood thinner. Is this safe to take?"

A common example of malpractice would be if your regular doctor, who is aware of your prescription and over-the-counter medications, decides to start you on a blood thinner without telling you to stop taking ibuprofen. A combination of ibuprofen and a blood thinner puts you at a much higher risk of bleeding and should be avoided in most cases.

Another major instance of malpractice could be if you need to take a blood thinner while pregnant. Only a few blood thinners are safe to use during pregnancy, and prescribing the wrong one can result in birth defects and/or miscarriage. 

I Think My Injury Is Due To A Medical Error - What Now?

Suppose you've suffered a significant side effect while taking a blood thinner and believe that a healthcare provider could have prevented or reduced the severity of your injury. In that case, you may have a case to make for medical malpractice. You deserve compensation for your injury, and finding an excellent legal team to fight for you is the first step toward obtaining the justice you deserve. In Pennsylvania, there is a two-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases. If you wait too long to file your claim, it can be more challenging to prove your case, so don't delay!

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

Our legal team at Ross Feller Casey has extensive experience with medical malpractice and negligence lawsuits. We have a team of leading doctor-lawyers right on staff, so we know how complicated it can be to determine whether a side effect could have been prevented. We have what it takes to get to the bottom of your case and uncover the truth. Case evaluations are free, and we work on a contingency basis, so you don't pay us a dime unless you win. We've recovered more than $1 billion for our clients in the last five years alone, and we're ready to help you. Contact us today!

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.