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Thromb Res. 2007;119(3):265-74. Epub 2006 May 3.

What is the optimal pharmacological prophylaxis for the prevention of deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in patients with acute ischemic stroke?

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Stroke Unit and Division of Internal and Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy.



Pulmonary embolism after acute ischemic stroke (AIS) is associated with a high in-hospital mortality. The benefit from pharmacological prophylaxis for venous thromboembolism (VTE) is uncertain probably due to doubts about the optimal agent and dose. We evaluated the benefit/risk ratio of different anticoagulant regimens in the prevention of VTE in patients with AIS.


The MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library databases were searched up to January 2005. Randomized controlled trials (RCT) comparing early administration of either low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) or unfractionated heparin (UFH) with control were included. Endpoints were objectively diagnosed deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism, intracranial hemorrhage (ICH), and extracranial hemorrhage (ECH). Low-dose UFH was arbitrarily defined as < or =15,000 IU/day, low-dose LMWH as < or =6000 IU/day or weight-adjusted dose of < or =86 IU/kg/day.


Sixteen trials involving 23,043 patients with AIS met the inclusion criteria. The number of events was small and different doses of anticoagulant treatment were used. Compared to control, high-dose UFH was associated with a reduction in pulmonary embolism (OR=0.49, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.29-0.83), but also with an increased risk of ICH (OR=3.86, 95% CI=2.41-6.19) and ECH (OR=4.74, 95% CI=2.88-7.78). Low-dose UFH decreased the thrombosis risk (OR=0.17, 95% CI=0.11-0.26), but had no influence on pulmonary embolism (OR=0.83, 95% CI=0.53-1.31); the risk of ICH or ECH was not statistically significant increased (OR=1.67, 95% CI=0.97-2.87 for ICH; and OR=1.58, 95% CI=0.89-2.81 for ECH, respectively). High-dose LMWH decreased both DVT (OR=0.07, 95% CI=0.02-0.29) and pulmonary embolism (0.44, 95% CI=0.18-1.11), but this benefit was offset by an increased risk for ICH (OR=2.01, 95% CI=1.02-3.96) and ECH (OR=1.78, 95% CI=0.99-3.17). Low-dose LMWH reduced the incidence of both DVT (OR=0.34, 95% CI=0.19-0.59) and pulmonary embolism (OR=0.36, 95% CI=0.15-0.87), without an increased risk of ICH (OR=1.39, 95% CI=0.53-3.67) or ECH (OR=1.44, 95% CI=0.13-16). For low-dose LMWH, the numbers needed to treat were 7 and 38 for DVT and pulmonary embolism, respectively.


Indirect comparison of low and high doses of UFH and LMWH suggests that low-dose LMWH have the best benefit/risk ratio in patients with acute ischemic stroke by decreasing the risk of both DVT and pulmonary embolism, without a clear increase in ICH or ECH.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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