Pharmacokinetic Modeling Using Real-World Data to Optimize Unfractionated Heparin Dosing in Pediatric Patients on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation and Evaluate Target Achievement-Clinical Outcomes Relationship

J Clin Pharmacol. 2024 Jan;64(1):30-44. doi: 10.1002/jcph.2333. Epub 2023 Sep 1.


Unfractionated heparin (UFH) is a commonly used anticoagulant for pediatric patients undergoing extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), but evidence is lacking on the ideal dosing. We aimed to (1) develop a population pharmacokinetic (PK) model for UFH, measured through anti-factor Xa assay; (2) optimize UFH starting infusions and dose titrations through simulations; and (3) explore UFH exposure-clinical outcomes relationship. Data from 218 patients admitted to Utah's Primary Children's Hospital were retrospectively collected. A 1-compartment PK model with time-varying clearance (CL) adequately described UFH PK. Weight on CL and volume of distribution and ECMO circuit change on CL were significant covariates. The typical estimates for initial CL and first-order rate constant to reach steady-state CL were 0.57 L/(h·10 kg) and 0.02/h. Comparable to non-ECMO patients, the typical steady-state CL was 0.81 L/(h·10 kg). Simulations showed that a 75 IU/kg UFH bolus dose followed by starting infusions of 25 and 20 IU/h/kg for patients aged younger than 6 years and 6 years or older, respectively, achieved the therapeutic target in 56.6% of all patients, whereas only 3.1% exceeded the target. The proposed UFH titration schemes achieved the target in more than 90% of patients while less than 0.63% were above the target after 24 and 48 hours of treatment. The median intensive care unit survival time in patients within and below the target at 24 hours was 136 and 66 hours, respectively. In conclusion, PK model of UFH was developed for pediatric patients on ECMO. The proposed UFH dosing scheme attained the anti-factor Xa target rapidly and safely.

Keywords: ECMO; UFH; anti-factor Xa; coagulation; pediatric patients; real-world data.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects
  • Blood Coagulation Tests
  • Child
  • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation*
  • Heparin* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Heparin
  • Anticoagulants