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April 12, 1993

The Use of an Indwelling Teflon Catheter for Subcutaneous Heparin Administration During Pregnancy: A Randomized Crossover Study

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, McMaster University and Hamilton Civic Hospitals Research Centre (Drs Anderson, Ginsberg, Brill-Edwards, Demers, and Hirsh), and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, McMaster University (Dr Burrows), Hamilton, Ontario. Dr Anderson is a research fellow and Dr Ginsberg is a research scholar with the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. Dr Hirsh is a distinguished professor with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

Arch Intern Med. 1993;153(7):841-844. doi:10.1001/archinte.1993.00410070035005

Background:  The use of subcutaneous heparin, the therapy of choice for women requiring anticoagulant prophylaxis during pregnancy, is problematic because of the discomfort produced by repeated injections. An indwelling subcutaneous Teflon catheter that can be left in place for 1 week recently became available for use as an entry port for parenteral therapy. Since the use of this catheter has the potential to overcome some of the problems of long-term heparin therapy, we decided to compare this Teflon catheter with twice-daily subcutaneous injections in women requiring heparin during pregnancy.

Methods:  In a randomized, multiple-crossover study, patients alternated every 2 weeks between having heparin administered through the indwelling Teflon catheter and receiving heparin via subcutaneous injections. After each 4-week cycle, patients completed a questionnaire designed to determine their preferred method of heparin administration. The side effects, doses, and anticoagulant activity of heparin with the two delivery systems were also compared.

Results:  Twelve patients completed one to five 4-week cycles of heparin therapy. Ten of the patients selected the Teflon catheter as the preferred route of heparin administration (P=.04) and 11 patients reported that the catheter caused less pain and bruising than twice-daily subcutaneous injections (P<.01). Five patients developed urticarial reactions at the sites of heparin injections. These reactions tended to be more severe when the Teflon catheter was used, and two women discontinued using the catheter after the first cycle because of this complication. There were no differences in heparin dose requirements or achieved activated partial thromboplastin times between the two routes of heparin administration.

Conclusions:  Most pregnant women in our study preferred to have subcutaneous heparin administered through an indwelling Teflon catheter rather than by twice-daily injections. Heparin given through the Teflon catheter was bioavailable and caused less local bruising than twice-daily injections. Urticarial reactions to heparin tended to be more severe with the use of the Teflon catheter and resulted in the discontinuation of the device's use in two of 12 patients.(Arch Intern Med. 1993;153:841-844)