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Ann Intern Med. 1997 Jan 15;126(2):133-6.

Comparison of 5-mg and 10-mg loading doses in initiation of warfarin therapy.

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Hamilton Civic Hospital, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada.



Loading doses of warfarin that are larger than those used for maintenance therapy are widely used in clinical practice, but they have never been prospectively evaluated.


To compare the effect of 5- and 10-mg loading doses of warfarin on laboratory markers of warfarin's anticoagulant effect.


Randomized clinical trial.


Tertiary care teaching hospital.


49 patients seen over a 5-month period with a target international normalized ratio (INR) of 2.0 to 3.0.


Patients were randomly assigned to receive an initial dose of 5 or 10 mg of warfarin. Subsequent doses of warfarin were administered on the basis of dosing nomograms.


INRs and levels of factors II, VII, IX, and X and protein C were measured daily for 5 days.


11 of 25 patients in the 10-mg group (44% [95% CI, 34% to 54%]) and 2 of 24 patients in the 5-mg group (8% [CI, 3% to 14%]) had INRs greater than 2.0 at 36 hours (P = 0.005), at which time the factor VII levels were 27% (CI, 18% to 36%) in the 10-mg group and 54% (CI, 43% to 65%) in the 5-mg group (P < 0.001). In contrast, factor II levels were 74% (CI, 67% to 81%) in the 10-mg group and 82% (CI, 73% to 93%) in the 5-mg group (P > 0.2). At 60 hours, 9 of 25 patients in the 10-mg group (36% [CI, 17% to 54%]) and no patients in the 5-mg group had INRs greater than 3.0. At 84 hours, 15 of 24 patients in the 10-mg group (63% [CI, 43% to 81%]) and 19 of 24 patients in the 5-mg group (79% [CI, 62% to 95%]) had INRs between 2.0 and 3.0. Four patients in the 10-mg group and 1 patient in the 5-mg group received vitamin K for excessive prolongation of the INR.


A 5-mg loading dose of warfarin produces less excess anticoagulation than does a 10-mg loading dose; the smaller dose also avoids the development of a potential hypercoagulable state caused by precipitous decreases in levels of protein C during the first 36 hours of warfarin therapy.

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