Low molecular weight heparin versus unfractionated heparin for perioperative thromboprophylaxis in patients with cancer.

Elie A. Akl, Nawman Labedi, Irene Terrenato, Maddalena Barba, Francesca Sperati, Elena V. Sempos, Paola Muti, Deborah Cook, Holger Schünemann

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The choice of the appropriate perioperative thromboprophylaxis in patients with cancer depends on the relative benefits and harms of low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) and unfractionated heparin (UFH). To systematically review the evidence for the relative efficacy and safety of LMWH and UFH for perioperative thromboprophylaxis in patients with cancer. A comprehensive search for trials of anticoagulation in cancer patients including a February 2010 electronic search of: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE and ISI Web of Science. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that enrolled cancer patients undergoing a surgical intervention and compared the effects of LMWH to UFH on mortality, deep venous thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE), bleeding outcomes, and thrombocytopenia. Two review authors used a standardized form to independently extract in duplicate data on risk of bias, participants, interventions and outcomes of interest. Where possible, we conducted meta-analyses using the random-effects model. Of 8187 identified citations, we included 16 RCTs with 11,847 patients in the meta-analyses, all using preoperative prophylactic anticoagulation. The overall quality of evidence was moderate. The meta-analysis did not conclusively rule out either a beneficial or harmful effect of LMWH compared to UFH for the following outcomes: mortality (RR = 0.90; 95% CI 0.73 to 1.10), symptomatic DVT (RR = 0.73; 95% CI 0.23 to 2.28), PE (RR = 0.59; 95% CI 0.25 to1.41), minor bleeding (RR = 0.88; 95% CI 0.47 to 1.66) and major bleeding (RR = 0.84; 95% CI 0.52 to 1.36). LMWH was associated with lower incidence of wound hematoma (RR = 0.60; 95% CI 0.43, 0.84) while UFH was associated with higher incidence of intra-operative transfusion (RR = 1.16; 95% CI 0.69,1.62). We found no difference between perioperative thromboprophylaxis with LMWH verus UFH in their effects on mortality and embolic outcomes in patients with cancer. Further trials are needed to more carefully evaluate the benefits and harms of different heparin thromboprophylaxis strategies in this population.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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