Information for the public


Some treatments may not be suitable for you, depending on your exact circumstances. If you have questions about specific treatments and options covered in this information, please talk to a member of your cardiac team.

Over the course of your treatment you will be offered a number of different drugs to 'thin' your blood and make it less likely to form blood clots. Some of these will be tablets that you will carry on taking after leaving hospital. Others will be given by drip while you are in hospital. Before offering you any drug, your cardiac team will carefully consider the likely benefits and balance these against any possible side effects.

Early drug treatment

As soon as a diagnosis of unstable angina or NSTEMI has been made, you will be offered aspirin (an antiplatelet drug) unless there are reasons why you cannot take it. You will be advised to take aspirin indefinitely. If you are allergic to aspirin, you may be offered another antiplatelet drug.

You will also be offered an injection of another type of 'blood-thinning' drug (an antithrombin). This will probably be fondaparinux, but may be heparin if you are likely to have certain tests within the next 24 hours. If you have kidney problems, low body weight, or you are an older person, you may be offered another antithrombin.

Deciding on further treatments

When considering further treatments your cardiac team will balance the likely benefits against the risks of the treatment. They will consider several factors that indicate how likely you are to have more serious heart problems in the future and how well you are likely to cope with the treatments. These factors include your age, whether you've had a heart attack or heart surgery in the past, your blood pressure and heart rate, your ECG pattern, and the results of blood tests.

The team will offer you clear information about the risks and benefits of any treatments. They will discuss this with you to help you make a choice.

Questions you might like to ask about possible treatments

  • Why have you decided to offer me this type of treatment?

  • What are the risks and benefits of this treatment?

  • What will the treatment involve?

  • How will the treatment help me? What effect will it have on my symptoms and everyday life? What sort of improvements might I expect? Will it make me live longer?

  • Why have you given me a higher first dose of a drug and then a lower one to carry on with?

  • What are my options for treatments other than the recommended treatment?

  • Can you give me a leaflet about the treatment?

Further drug treatment

If you are given clopidogrel, you may be given a card. This will remind you to consult a doctor about how long you should carry on taking clopidogrel.

Your cardiac team will probably offer you another antiplatelet drug called clopidogrel to take as well as aspirin. You will be advised to take clopidogrel for 12 months.

If the team think you will benefit, you may also be offered another type of antiplatelet drug called a glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitor by drip, or another antithrombin called bivalirudin instead of heparin.

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