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Arch Intern Med. 1994 May 9;154(9):999-1004.

Physician-guided treatment compared with a heparin protocol for deep vein thrombosis.

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Pulmonary Division, LDS Hospital, Salt Lake City.



Effective heparin therapy, defined by therapeutic prolongation of the activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT), decreases the risk of recurrent venous thromboembolism. Achieving therapeutic prolongation of the APTT within 24 hours of the start of heparin therapy has proved difficult. We hypothesized that a protocol that delivered high initial heparin infusions to patients without identifiable risk for bleeding complications would decrease the time to achieve a therapeutic anticoagulant effect without increasing the incidence of major bleeding complications.


To test this hypothesis, we studied concurrent patient cohorts. We defined a therapeutic anticoagulant effect (APTT > 55 seconds) to be an APTT more than 1.5 times the upper limit of normal. Twenty patients with acute symptomatic deep vein thrombosis received a 5000-U heparin bolus, followed by 1680 U/h (low risk to bleed) or 1240 U/h (high risk to bleed), adjusted by protocol-directed response to APTT results. Forty-eight patients with deep vein thrombosis were treated by their physicians. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to examine the proportion of patients who achieved an APTT greater than 55 seconds as a function of time.


The two study cohorts did not differ with respect to age, weight, or risk factors for venous thromboembolism. Analysis of Kaplan-Meier curves showed that the heparin protocol decreased the time to achieve a therapeutic anticoagulant effect (P = .025). Ten (91%) of 11 patients (95% confidence interval, 59% to 100%) without risks to bleed who were treated by the heparin protocol and 29 (60%) of 48 patients (95% confidence interval, 45% to 74%) not treated by the protocol had an initial therapeutic APTT (P = .006).


A protocol that delivers higher initial heparin infusions to patients without identifiable risks for bleeding decreases the time needed to achieve therapeutic prolongation of APTT, when compared with nonprotocol physician management.

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