Optimal Dosing of Subcutaneous Unfractionated Heparin for the Treatment of Deep Vein Thrombosis
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Twice-daily, inpatient, subcutaneous unfractionated heparin is at least as effective and safe as continuous intravenous unfractionated heparin for the treatment of acute deep vein thrombosis. Subcutaneous unfractionated heparin therefore may be suitable for outpatient treatment of deep vein thrombosis. The purpose of this study was to develop a dosing nomogram for a dose each 12 hours (2 doses per day) 12-hourly subcutaneous unfractionated heparin that is suitable for outpatient treatment of acute deep vein thrombosis. A cohort study was performed in patients with acute deep vein thrombosis in two phases. In both phases, the first subcutaneous loading dose of unfractionated heparin was 317 U/kg, and the second dose was 231 U/kg. The activated partial thromboplastin time was measured daily, 6 hours after the morning injection, and subsequent doses of unfractionated heparin were adjusted according to a nomogram, which was modified for phase II. Warfarin was started with unfractionated heparin. In phase I (14 outpatients), activated partial thromboplastin time results were frequently subtherapeutic (9:14) the day after starting unfractionated heparin (day 1), and were frequently supratherapeutic (27:40) after the first 2 days of unfractionated heparin therapy. In phase II (21 patients), to explain the frequently subtherapeutic activated partial thromboplastin time results that were obtained on day 1, the activated partial thromboplastin time results were measured after the initial loading dose. Mean activated partial thromboplastin time results of 86 and 61 seconds were obtained 6 and 12 hours after this dose, suggesting that 317 U/kg is a suitable subcutaneous loading dose. In contrast to phase I, in phase II, unfractionated heparin dose was not increased on day 1 in response to a low activated partial thromboplastin time result. This reduced the frequency of supratherapeutic activated partial thromboplastin time results during the early days of therapy without increasing the frequency of subtherapeutic results. Warfarin therapy had a substantal effect on the activated partial thromboplastin time that appeared to account for a high frequency of supratherapeutic results during the later days of unfractionated heparin therapy; the activated partial thromboplastin time increased by 20 seconds (95% CI, 14-27 seconds) with each increase in the International Normalized Ratio of 1.0. We had limited success at developing a dosing nomogram for subcutaneous unfractionated heparin that reliably achieved activated partial thromboplastin time results within the therapeutic range. However, as oral anticoagulants directly increased activated partial thromboplastin time results, we suggest that adjusting unfractionated heparin dose to achieve prespecified activated partial thromboplastin time results may not be appropriate in patients who are receiving concomitant warfarin therapy.