Low molecular weight heparin is typically used for patients who need to be treated for deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot (thrombus) in a deep vein usually in the legs. These clots are dangerous because they can break loose, travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, and block blood flow in the lungs (pulmonary embolism). There are many reasons why clots form in a patient. Mainly when a patient is inactive or bedridden for long periods of time, surgery can damage a blood vessel so a clot can form, or even cancer can cause DVT to form.
Treatments for DVT are drugs called anticoagulants that can prevent the blood from clotting thus preventing the adverse effects from a clot. Low molecular weight heparin works by binding to a substance called antithrombin III (which is the major inhibitor of thrombin in the blood). The overall effect of heparin is that it turns off the coagulation pathway and prevents clots from forming. It can be used as a subcutaneous injection which can be given in an outpatient setting with no increased risk of recurrent thromboembolism or bleeding complications. Since most patients with DVT require one or more diagnostic tests, treatment with intravenous heparin and a three to seven day hospital stay thus making low molecular weight heparin a better alternative. (aafp.org1999) However, with low molecular weight heparin, being a subcutaneous injection makes the process easier for the patient since they do not have to spend all that extra time in the hospital. The ultimate consequence of a blood clot can be stroke or heart attack so prevention of these events is the consequence of this drug.
Unfortunately, just like many other drugs there are some serious side effects to taking LMWHs. They are contraindicated with patients with an indwelling epidural catheter; they can be given two hours after the epidural is... [continues]
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