Background: The efficacy and safety of thromboprophylaxis in patients with acute medical illnesses who may be at risk for venous thromboembolism have not been determined in adequately designed trials.
Methods: In a double-blind study, we randomly assigned 1102 hospitalized patients older than 40 years to receive 40 mg of enoxaparin, 20 mg of enoxaparin, or placebo subcutaneously once daily for 6 to 14 days. Most patients were not in an intensive care unit. The primary outcome was venous thromboembolism between days 1 and 14, defined as deep-vein thrombosis detected by bilateral venography (or duplex ultrasonography) between days 6 and 14 (or earlier if clinically indicated) or documented pulmonary embolism. The duration of follow-up was three months.
Results: The primary outcome could be assessed in 866 patients. The incidence of venous thromboembolism was significantly lower in the group that received 40 mg of enoxaparin (5.5 percent [16 of 291 patients]) than in the group that received placebo (14.9 percent [43 of 288 patients]) (relative risk, 0.37; 97.6 percent confidence interval, 0.22 to 0.63; P< 0.001). The benefit observed with 40 mg of enoxaparin was maintained at three months. There was no significant difference in the incidence of venous thromboembolism between the group that received 20 mg of enoxaparin (43 of 287 patients [15.0 percent]) and the placebo group. The incidence of adverse effects did not differ significantly between the placebo group and either enoxaparin group. By day 110, 50 patients had died in the placebo group (13.9 percent), 51 had died in the 20-mg group (14.7 percent), and 41 had died in the 40-mg group (11.4 percent); the differences were not significant.
Conclusions: Prophylactic treatment with 40 mg of enoxaparin subcutaneously per day safely and effectively reduces the risk of venous thromboembolism in patients with acute medical illnesses.