Purpose: The primary objective of this study was to evaluate with venography the rate of thrombus regression after a fixed dose of low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH) per day for 3 months compared with oral anticoagulant therapy for deep venous thrombosis (DVT). Secondary endpoints were the comparisons of the efficacy and safety of both treatments.
Methods: This study was designed as an open randomized clinical study in a university hospital setting. Of the 165 patients finally enrolled in the study, 85 were assigned LMWH therapy and 80 were assigned oral anticoagulant therapy. In the group randomized to oral anticoagulant therapy, the patients first underwent treatment in the hospital with standard unfractionated heparin and then coumarin for 3 months. Doses were adjusted with laboratory monitoring to maintain the international normalized ratio between 2.0 and 3.0. Patients in the LMWH group were administered subcutaneous injections of fixed doses of 40 mg enoxaparin (4000 anti-Xa units) every 12 hours for 7 days, and after discharge from the hospital, they were administered 40 mg enoxaparin once daily at fixed doses for 3 months without a laboratory control assay. A quantitative venographic score (Marder score) was used to assess the extent of the venous thrombosis, with 0 points indicating no DVT and 40 points indicating total occlusion of all deep veins. The rate of thrombus reduction was defined as the difference in quantitative venographic scores after termination of LMWH or coumarin therapy as compared with the scores obtained on the initial venographic results. The efficacy was defined as the ability to prevent symptomatic extension or recurrence of venous thromboembolism (documented with venograms or serial lung scans). The safety was defined as the occurrence of hemorrhages.
Results: After 3 months of treatment, the mean Marder score was significantly decreased in both groups in comparison with the baseline score, although the effect of therapy was significantly better after LMWH therapy (49.4% reduction) than after coumarin therapy (24.5% reduction; P <.001). LMWH therapy and male gender were independently associated with an enhanced resolution of the thrombus. A lower frequency of symptomatic recurrent venous thromboembolism was also shown in patients who underwent treatment with LMWH therapy (9.5%) than with oral anticoagulant therapy (23.7%; P <.05), although this difference was entirely a result of recurrence of DVT. Bleeding complications were significantly fewer in the LMWH group than in the coumarin group (1. 1% vs 10%; P <.05). This difference was caused by minor hemorrhages. Coumarin therapy and cancer were independently associated with an enhanced risk of complications. Subcutaneous heparin therapy was well tolerated by all patients.
Conclusion: The patients who were allocated to undergo enoxaparin therapy had a significantly greater improvement in their quantitative venographic score, a significantly lower recurrence rate of symptomatic venous thromboembolism, and a significantly lower incidence of bleeding than patients who underwent treatment with coumarin. LMWH can be used on an outpatient basis as a safer and more effective alternative to classical oral anticoagulant therapy for the secondary prophylaxis of selected patients with DVT.