Unfractionated heparin versus low-molecular-weight heparin for venous thromboembolism prophylaxis in trauma

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a common complication in trauma patients. Pharmacologic prophylaxis is utilized in trauma patients to reduce their risk of a VTE event. The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma guidelines recommend use of low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) as the preferred agent in these patients. However, there is literature suggesting that unfractionated heparin (UFH) is an acceptable, and less costly, alternative VTE prophylaxis agent with equivalent efficacy in trauma patients. We examined data from the Michigan Trauma Quality Improvement Program to perform a comparative effectiveness study of UFH versus LMWH on outcomes for trauma patients.

METHODS

We conducted an analysis of the Michigan Trauma Quality Improvement Program data from January 2012 to December 2014. The data set contains information on date, time, and drug type of the first dose of VTE prophylaxis. Thirty-seven thousand eight hundred sixty-eight patients from 23 hospitals were present with an Injury Severity Score of 5 or greater and hospitalization for more than 24 hours. Patients were excluded if they died within 24 hours or received no pharmacologic VTE prophylaxis or agents other than UFH or LMWH while admitted to the hospital. We compared patients receiving LMWH to those receiving UFH. Outcomes assessed were VTE event, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, and mortality during hospitalization. We used a generalized estimating equation approach to fit population-averaged logistic regression models with the type of first dose of VTE prophylaxis as the independent variable. Unfractionated heparin was considered the reference value. Timing of the first dose of VTE prophylaxis was entered into the model in addition to standard covariates. Odds ratios were generated for each of the dependent variables of interest.

RESULTS

The analysis cohort consisted of 18,010 patients. Patients administered LMWH had a decreased risk of mortality (odds ratio, 0.64; confidence interval, 0.49–0.83), VTE (odds ratio, 0.67; confidence interval, 0.53–0.84), pulmonary embolism (odds ratio, 0.53; confidence interval, 0.35–0.79), and deep vein thrombosis (odds ratio, 0.73; confidence interval, 0.57–0.95) when compared with UFH following risk adjustment and accounting for hospital effect. The reduced risk of a VTE event for patients receiving LMWH was most pronounced for patients in the lower injury-severity categories.

CONCLUSIONS

In our examination of VTE prophylaxis drug effectiveness, LMWH was found to be superior to UFH in reducing the incidence of mortality and VTE events among trauma patients. Therefore, LMWH should be the preferred VTE prophylaxis agent for use in hospitalized trauma patients.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE

Therapeutic, level III.

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