What is the role of low–molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) in the treatment of acute coronary syndrome (ACS)?

Updated: Sep 30, 2020
  • Author: David L Coven, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Eric H Yang, MD  more...
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LMWHs might be superior to unfractionated heparin in reducing cardiovascular outcomes, with a safety profile similar to that of heparin in patients receiving medical care.

Conflicting results emerged from 9 randomized trials directly comparing LMWH with unfractionated heparin. Two trials evaluated dalteparin, another evaluated nadroparin, and 6 evaluated enoxaparin. [91, 92] Trials with dalteparin and nadroparin reported similar rates of nonfatal myocardial infarction or death compared with heparin, whereas 5 of 6 trials of enoxaparin found point estimates for death or nonfatal myocardial infarction that favored enoxaparin over heparin. The benefit of enoxaparin appeared to be driven largely by a reduction in nonfatal myocardial infarction, especially in the cohort of patients who had not received any open-label anticoagulant therapy before randomization.

In addition, a systematic review comparing LMWH with unfractionated heparin found no significant difference in benefits between the two drugs.

Aside from the possible medical benefits of using LMWH in place of unfractionated heparin, advantages of LMWH include ease of administration, absence of need for anticoagulation monitoring, and potential for overall cost savings. Although three LMWHs are approved for use in the United States, only enoxaparin is currently approved for use in unstable angina. Lev et al found that the combination of eptifibatide with enoxaparin appears to have a more potent antithrombotic effect than that of eptifibatide and unfractionated heparin. [93]

The role of LMWHs in patients for whom PCI is scheduled is relatively ill defined. However, it is likely to be at least equivalent to that of heparin. It appears reasonable to minimize the risk of excessive anticoagulation during PCI by avoiding crossover of anticoagulants (ie, maintain consistent anticoagulant therapy from the pre-PCI phase throughout the procedure itself). Additional experience with regard to the safety and efficacy of the concomitant administration of LMWHs with Gp IIb/IIIa antagonists and fibrinolytic agents is currently being acquired.

Adding apixaban (5 mg twice daily) to antiplatelet therapy in high-risk patients after ACS may increase the number of major bleeding events without significantly reducing recurrent ischemic events. [94]

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