Background: Antithrombotic therapy with heparin plus aspirin reduces the rate of ischemic events in patients with unstable coronary artery disease. Low-molecular-weight heparin has a more predictable anticoagulant effect than standard unfractionated heparin, is easier to administer, and does not require monitoring.
Methods: In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we randomly assigned 3171 patients with angina at rest or non-Q-wave myocardial infarction to receive either 1 mg of enoxaparin (low-molecular-weight heparin) per kilogram of body weight, administered subcutaneously twice daily, or continuous intravenous unfractionated heparin. Therapy was continued for a minimum of 48 hours to a maximum of 8 days, and we collected data on important coronary end points over a period of 30 days.
Results: At 14 days the risk of death, myocardial infarction, or recurrent angina was significantly lower in the patients assigned to enoxaparin than in those assigned to unfractionated heparin (16.6 percent vs. 19.8 percent, P=0.019). At 30 days, the risk of this composite end point remained significantly lower in the enoxaparin group (19.8 percent vs. 23.3 percent, P=0.016). The need for revascularization procedures at 30 days was also significantly less frequent in the patients assigned to enoxaparin (27.1 percent vs. 32.2 percent, P=0.001). The 30-day incidence of major bleeding complications was 6.5 percent in the enoxaparin group and 7.0 percent in the unfractionated-heparin group, but the incidence of bleeding overall was significantly higher in the enoxaparin group (18.4 percent vs. 14.2 percent, P=0.001), primarily because of ecchymoses at injection sites.
Conclusions: Antithrombotic therapy with enoxaparin plus aspirin was more effective than unfractionated heparin plus aspirin in reducing the incidence of ischemic events in patients with unstable angina or non-Q-wave myocardial infarction in the early phase. This benefit of enoxaparin was achieved with an increase in minor but not in major bleeding.