Low molecular weight heparin versus unfractionated heparin in the initial treatment of venous thromboembolism

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 1998 Jul;4(4):220-5. doi: 10.1097/00063198-199807000-00007.


In this review, we analyze data from randomized trials in which low molecular weight heparin was compared with unfractionated heparin, both to estimate the treatment effect of low molecular weight heparin in the initial treatment of venous thromboembolism and to evaluate the effect of the varied proportion of included cancer patients (6% to 22.7%) on the incidence of outcome events (recurrence of venous thromboembolism, bleeding, and mortality) and on the estimated treatment effect. Low molecular weight heparin has been extensively investigated in patients with deep vein thrombosis, but few trials have included patients with pulmonary embolism. The risk of recurrence of venous thromboembolism (odds ratio, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.56-1.04), major bleeding (odds ratio, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.38-0.95), and mortality (odds ratio, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.55-0.96) was less with low molecular weight heparins compared with unfractionated heparin. The proportion of cancer patients in these studies had a statistically significant effect on the incidence of recurrent venous thromboembolism (P = 0.03) and mortality (P = 0.002), but no influence on the estimated treatment effects of low molecular weight heparins. Low molecular weight heparin is effective and safe in the initial treatment of venous thromboembolism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / administration & dosage*
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Heparin / administration & dosage
  • Heparin / adverse effects
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / administration & dosage*
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recurrence
  • Survival Rate
  • Thromboembolism / diagnosis
  • Thromboembolism / drug therapy*
  • Thromboembolism / mortality
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticoagulants
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight
  • Heparin