What is heparin and how is it used in the treatment of deep venous thrombosis (DVT)?

Updated: Jun 05, 2019
  • Author: Kaushal (Kevin) Patel, MD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Answer

Heparin is a heterogeneous mixture of polysaccharide fragments with varying molecular weights but with similar biological activity. The larger fragments exert their anticoagulant effect by interacting with antithrombin III (ATIII) to inhibit thrombin. ATIII, the body’s primary anticoagulant, inactivates thrombin and inhibits the activity of activated factor X in the coagulation process. The low-molecular-weight fragments exert their anticoagulant effect by inhibiting the activity of activated factor X. The hemorrhagic complications attributed to heparin are thought to arise from the larger higher-molecular-weight fragments. LMWH is prepared by selectively treating unfractionated heparin to isolate the low-molecular-weight (< 9000 Da) fragments


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