Consecutive patients with atrial fibrillation and/or prosthetic heart valves, receiving chronic anticoagulation with phenprocoumon and scheduled to undergo cardiac catheterization, were randomized to subcutaneous enoxaparin twice daily (n = 32) or intravenous UFH (n = 36). Cardiac catheterization was performed at an international normalized ratio <1.5. Activated partial thromboplastin times and levels of anti-Factor Xa activity were measured daily. The time until effective anticoagulation (primary endpoint) was significantly shorter for enoxaparin than for UFH (1.1 +/- 0.4 days versus 3.7 +/- 2.5 days, p<0.0001). The percentage of days of effective anticoagulation was significantly higher in the enoxaparin group than in the UFH group (93.3 +/- 9.5% versus 53.7 +/- 26.6%, p <0.0001). In conclusion, enoxaparin achieves therapeutic levels of anticoagulation more rapidly and consistently than UFH in chronically anticoagulated patients with prosthetic heart valves and/or atrial fibrillation undergoing cardiac catheterization.