Within the last two decades low molecular weight heparins (LMWH) have gained increasing widespread use as anticoagulants in children. The use of LMWH has been implemented into clinical care even though there is a lack of firm evidence on the efficacy and safety of LMWH in this population due to the absence of sufficiently powered randomized controlled trials. In the absence of clinical trials, we performed a meta-analysis of available single-arm studies using LMWH in children. A systematic search of electronic databases (Medline, EMBASE, OVID, Web of Science, The Cochrane Library) for studies published from 1980 to 2010 was conducted using keywords in combination both as MeSH terms and text words. Two authors independently screened citations and those meeting a priori defined inclusion criteria were retained. Data on year of publication, study design, country of origin, number of patients, ethnicity, venous thromboembolic events type, and frequency of recurrence and major bleedings were abstracted. Pooled incidence rates (IR) including 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) on efficacy and safety data of LMWH administration on primary prophylaxis, as well as on secondary prophylaxis in children following symptomatic thromboembolism (TE) were shown. We included 2251 pediatric patients derived from 35 single-arm studies from 12 study countries who were eligible for analysis in the present systematic review. Pooled incidence rates (95% CI) to develop first TE on primary prophylaxis, further TE event on LMWH secondary prophylaxis, or a major bleeding event on LMWH were 0.047 (0.023 to 0.091), 0.052 (0.037 to 0.073) for efficacy, and 0.054 (0.039 to 0.074) for safety (treatment data only), respectively. Efficacy and safety data are comparable with adult data. The present systematic review suggests that use of LMWH in children as primary prophylaxis and in treatment of symptomatic thrombosis is effective and safe. However, properly designed randomized controlled trials are needed.
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