Background: Patients with acute proximal deep-vein thrombosis are usually treated first in the hospital with intravenous standard (unfractionated) heparin. However, the longer plasma half-life, better bioavailability after subcutaneous administration, and more predictable anticoagulant response of low-molecular-weight heparins make them attractive for possible home use. We compared these two approaches.
Methods: Patients with acute proximal deep-vein thrombosis were randomly assigned to receive either intravenous standard heparin in the hospital (253 patients) or low-molecular-weight heparin (1 mg of enoxaparin per kilogram of body weight subcutaneously twice daily) administered primarily at home (247 patients). The study design allowed outpatients taking low-molecular-weight heparin to go home immediately and hospitalized patients taking low-molecular-weight heparin to be discharged early. All the patients received warfarin starting on the second day.
Results: Thirteen of the 247 patients receiving low-molecular-weight heparin (5.3 percent) had recurrent thromboembolism, as compared with 17 of the 253 patients receiving standard heparin (6.7 percent; P=0.57; absolute difference, 1.4 percentage points; 95 percent confidence interval, -3.0 to 5.7). Five patients receiving low-molecular-weight heparin had major bleeding, as compared with three patients receiving standard heparin. After randomization, the patients who received low-molecular-weight heparin spent a mean of 1.1 days in the hospital, as compared with 6.5 days for the standard-heparin group; 120 patients in the low-molecular-weight- heparin group did not need to be hospitalized at all.
Conclusions: Low-molecular-weight heparin can be used safely and effectively to treat patients with proximal deep-vein thrombosis at home.