What is a mechanical heart valve?
We all have four valves that control the flow of blood through our hearts. These valves are sometimes weakened after a heart attack, or by high blood pressure, birth defects and severe lung disease. There are approximately 50,000 heart valve replacements in Europe every year, and over 50 per cent of patients have a mechanical heart valve¹.
While mechanical heart valves save lives, they can also damage blood cells, leaving you at risk of clotting and strokes. Warfarin is an anticoagulant drug that has been proven to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. If you have had heart valve replacement surgery it is likely that your doctor will prescribe long-term warfarin treatment to manage your International Normalised Ratio (INR).
You will need to have regular INR tests, which usually take place at a hospital or GP surgery. This can mean regular time away from work or whatever else you’d rather be doing with your life. It can also put limitations on the amount of time spent away travelling. A possible alternative, recommended by NHS regulator the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), is to self-monitor your INR, providing you are able to do so and there is appropriate healthcare support in place.1
Self-monitoring frees you from regular trips to your GP or hospital. This saves you from the inconvenience and expense of travelling to appointments, and means you won’t have to wait for tests.
Self-monitoring is the collective term used to describe both self-testing and self-management. Self-testing is when you test a small drop of blood from your finger with the CoaguChek meter, and then tell your healthcare professional your results so that they can advise you and adjust your warfarin dose accordingly.
Self-management is when your healthcare professional has given you training and an agreed protocol to follow, so that you can adjust your own warfarin dose after testing with the CoaguChek meter.
While many people find self-monitoring more convenient, it isn’t for everyone. You will need to get a better understanding of your treatment, and commit to sticking to the plan you make with your healthcare professional.
There’s no upper age limit for self-monitoring, although there are some minimum requirements. To be eligible you must:
- Be prescribed long-term warfarin (If you take a different anticoagulation drug, please contact the Care Line Team to see if this is compatible with using a CoaguChek meter)
- Want to be more active in looking after your own health
- Have reasonable eyesight and dexterity
- Have the support of your healthcare professional
You can buy meters and test strips online, or you can call our freephone Care Line on 0808 100 7666. Different payment options may be available to you, including a VAT-free price for those already taking long-term warfarin, and an interest-free payment plan to help spread the cost.
You will need CoaguChek test strips to use your meter. These are available on prescription but this is subject to your GP’s discretion and prescription charges may apply. Alternatively, you can purchase direct via the Care Line team or online. As with any decision about your health, it’s best to explore your options with your healthcare professional before self-monitoring.