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ARTICLE |

Optimal Therapeutic Level of Heparin Therapy in Patients With Venous Thrombosis

Russell D. Hull, MBBS, MSc; Gary E. Raskob, MSc; David Rosenbloom, PharmD; Jane Lemaire, MD; Graham F. Pineo, MD; Barry Baylis, MD; Jeffrey S. Ginsberg, MD; Akbar A. Panju, MD; Patrick Brill-Edwards, MD; Rollin Brant, PhD
Arch Intern Med. 1992;152(8):1589-1595. doi:10.1001/archinte.1992.00400200027006.
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Background.—  Audits of heparin sodium therapy suggest that heparin administration is fraught with difficulty. The literature indicates that the current clinical practice of intuitive ordering of heparin results in inadequate therapy because of fear of bleeding. The importance of exceeding the lower limit of the therapeutic range has been strongly supported by findings of prospective clinical trials. Firm evidence indicates that failure to exceed the lower limit is associated with unacceptably high rates of recurrent venous thromboembolism. By comparison, evidence supporting the risk of exceeding the upper limit of the therapeutic range is weak.

Objectives.—  The purposes of this study were (1) to validate prospectively an approach designed to minimize the proportion of patients receiving subtherapeutic doses of heparin and (2) to determine the effectiveness and safety of decreasing the heparin dosage infused on the basis of activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) prolongation reflecting both heparin and warfarin sodium effects.

Methods.—  We performed a randomized double-blind study evaluating a prescriptive approach to heparin administration in patients receiving heparin or heparin with warfarin. Thromboembolic and bleeding complications were objectively documented.

Results.—  Only 1% and 2% of patients had subtherapeutic heparin levels for 24 hours or more in the heparin and combined groups, respectively. Recurrent venous thromboembolism occurred infrequently in both groups (7%). Sixty-nine (69%) of 99 patients receiving combined therapy had supratherapeutic values, compared with 24 (24%) of 100 receiving heparin; bleeding complications occurred in 9% and 12%, respectively.

Conclusions.—  Our findings demonstrate that no association exists between supratherapeutic APTT responses and bleeding, which is in direct contrast to the observed association between subtherapeutic APTT responses and recurrent venous thromboembolism.(Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:1589-1595)

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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