Antiplatelet medications

Antiplatelet medications are a group of substances, widely prescribed in the prevention and treatment of arterial thrombosis (the blocking of a smooth blood flow in the arteries and arterioles). They are widely used because cardiovascular diseases (stroke, heart attacks, peripheral arterial disease, and other underlying conditions) are common potentially serious conditions in the western world. For example, pulmonary thrombosis (a clot in the lungs) can be a fatal event. Antiplatelet medications make a useful contribution in the management and prevention of a range of arterial conditions.

The group of medications are called antiplatelet medications because they all in some way interfere with the aggregation of platelets, the early stages of the formation of a blood clot. Clumping / clotting of platelets is the most significant contribution to the formation of clots in arteries, hence preventing platelets from aggregating is the mechanism to treat arterial conditions (the formation of thromboses in veins follows slightly different paths and accordingly there is another widely used range of medications, anticoagulants, for the treatment of venous conditions).

The most commonly used oral antiplatelet medications are

Aspirin in low doses hinders an enzyme that is necessary to initiate the formation of a clot (in higher doses aspirin has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties). Clopidogrel hinders another pathway in the early stages of formation of a blood clot. Other antiplatelet medications address later stages in the clotting process and tend to be stronger suppressors of platelet activity.

A maxillofacial clinic certainly is not the place for the treatment of cardiovascular conditions. However, a number of maxillofacial patients will be on long-term medication with antiplatelet drugs. This can be relevant for maxillofacial treatment planning and prescription of medications because all antiplatelet (and anticoagulant) medications have in common that they interfere with many other medications and foods.