Should low-molecular-weight heparins replace unfractionated heparin as the agent of choice for adults with deep venous thrombosis?

J Fam Pract. 1998 Sep;47(3):185-92.


Background: Several low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWHs) are now approved for use in the United States for the prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism. They are used in Europe for the treatment of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism. This review examines the evidence addressing the question "Should LMWHs replace unfractionated heparin (UFH) in the treatment of adults with DVT?"

Methods: We performed a MEDLINE search using the key words "low-molecular-weight heparin" from the years 1990 to 1998, and the results were assessed using the JAMA Users' Guides to the Medical Literature system.

Results: Low-molecular-weight heparins are at least as safe and effective as unfractionated heparin in the treatment of patients with DVT. They are probably more effective and safer. They are more convenient to use and are associated with lower overall costs.

Conclusions: Based on efficacy, safety, convenience, and cost, LMWHs are clearly superior to UFH in the treatment of DVT in primary care. Studies that confirm an expected improvement in patient-oriented outcomes (e.g., mortality and quality of life) need to be done.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Care Costs
  • Heparin / economics
  • Heparin / therapeutic use*
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / economics
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Thrombophlebitis / drug therapy*
  • Thrombophlebitis / economics
  • Thrombophlebitis / prevention & control


  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight
  • Heparin