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Substance that prevents blood from clotting by suppressing the synthesis or function of various clotting factors (seecoagulation). Anticoagulants are given to prevent thrombosis and used in drawing and storing blood. There are two main types of anticoagulants: heparin and vitamin K antagonists (e.g., warfarin). The latter have longer-lasting effects, interfering in the liver's metabolism of vitamin K to cause production of defective clotting factors. Anticoagulant therapy carries a high risk of uncontrollable hemorrhage.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on anticoagulant, visit Britannica.com.