Background: An intravenous course of standard (unfractionated) heparin with the dose adjusted to prolong the activated partial-thromboplastin time to a desired length is the standard initial in-hospital treatment for patients with deep-vein thrombosis, but fixed-dose subcutaneous low-molecular-weight heparin appears to be as effective and safe. Because the latter treatment can be given on an outpatient basis, we compared the two treatments in symptomatic outpatients with proximal-vein thrombosis but no signs of pulmonary embolism.
Methods: We randomly assigned patients to adjusted-dose intravenous standard heparin administered in the hospital (198 patients) or fixed-dose subcutaneous low-molecular-weight heparin administered at home, when feasible (202 patients). We compared the treatments with respect to recurrent venous thromboembolism, major bleeding, quality of life, and costs.
Results: Seventeen of the 198 patients who received standard heparin (8.6 percent) and 14 of the 202 patients who received low-molecular-weight heparin (6.9 percent) had recurrent thromboembolism (difference, 1.7 percentage points; 95 percent confidence interval, -3.6 to 6.9). Major bleeding occurred in four patients assigned to standard heparin (2.0 percent) and one patient assigned to low-molecular-weight heparin (0.5 percent; difference, 1.5 percentage points; 95 percent confidence interval, -0.7 to 2.7). Quality of life improved in both groups. Physical activity and social functioning were better in the patients assigned to low-molecular-weight heparin. Among the patients in that group, 35 percent were never admitted to the hospital at all, and 40 percent were discharged early. This treatment was associated with a mean reduction in hospital days of 67 percent, ranging from 29 percent to 86 percent in the various study centers.
Conclusions: In patients with proximal-vein thrombosis, treatment with low-molecular-weight heparin at home is feasible, effective, and safe.