What is heparin?

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Generic Name: Heparin Brand Name(s): Generics only. No brands available.

Know the basics

What is heparin used for?

Heparin is an anticoagulant (blood thinner) that prevents the formation of blood clots.

Heparin is used to treat and prevent blood clots in the veins, arteries, or lung. Heparin is also used before surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Heparin injection should not be used to flush (clean out) an intravenous (IV) catheter. A separate product is available to use as catheter lock flush.

Heparin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

How should I take heparin?

Heparin is injected under the skin or into a vein through an IV. You may be shown how to use an IV at home.

Do not self-inject heparin if you do not fully understand how to give the injection and properly dispose of used needles, IV tubing, and other items used to inject the medicine.

Do not use the heparin injection if it has changed colors or has particles in it. Call your doctor for a new prescription.

You may be switched from injectable heparin to an oral (taken by mouth) blood thinner. Do not stop using this medicine until your doctor tells you to. You may need to use both the injection and the oral forms of heparin for a short time.

How do I store heparin?

Heparin is best stored at room temperature away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store heparin in the bathroom or the freezer. There may be different brands of heparin that may have different storage needs. It is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

You should not flush heparin down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. It is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

Know the precautions & warnings

What should I know before using heparin?

Before using heparin,

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to heparin, any other medications, beef products,pork products, or any of the ingredients in heparin injection. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: other anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin); antihistamines (in many cough and cold products); antithrombin III (Thrombate III); aspirin or aspirin-containing products and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn); dextran; digoxin (Digitek, Lanoxin); dipyridamole (Persantine, in Aggrenox); hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil); indomethacin (Indocin); phenylbutazone (Azolid) (not available in the US); quinine; and tetracycline antibiotics such as demeclocycline (Declomycin), doxycycline (Monodox, Vibramycin), minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin) and tetracycline (Bristacycline, Sumycin). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
  • tell your doctor if you have a low level of platelets (type of blood cells needed for normal clotting) in your blood and if you have heavy bleeding that cannot be stopped anywhere in your body. Your doctor may tell you not to use heparin.
  • tell your doctor if you are currently experiencing your menstrual period; if you have a fever or an infection; and if you have recently had a spinal tap (removal of a small amount of the fluid that bathes the spinal cord to test for infection or other problems), spinal anesthesia (administration of pain medication in the area around the spine), surgery, especially involving the brain, spinal cord or eye, or a heart attack. Also tell your doctor if you have or have ever had a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia (condition in which the blood does not clot normally), antithrombin III deficiency (condition that causes blood clots to form), blood clots in the legs, lungs, or anywhere in the body, unusual bruising or purple spots under the skin, cancer, ulcers in the stomach or intestine, a tube that drains the stomach or intestine, high blood pressure, or liver disease.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while using heparin, call your doctor.
  • if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are using heparin.
  • tell your doctor if you smoke or use tobacco products and if you stop smoking at any time during your treatment with heparin. Smoking may decrease the effectiveness of this medication.

Is it safe to take heparin during pregnancy or breast-feeding?

There are no adequate studies in women for determining risk when using this medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking this medication. This medication is pregnancy risk category C according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA pregnancy risk category reference below:

  • A=No risk,
  • B=No risk in some studies,
  • C=There may be some risk,
  • D=Positive evidence of risk,
  • X=Contraindicated,
  • N=Unknown

Know the side effects

What are the side effects of heparin?

 Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: nausea, vomiting, sweating, hives, itching, trouble breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, or feeling like you might pass out..

Some people receiving a heparin injection have had a reaction to the infusion (when the medicine is injected into the vein). Tell your caregiver right away if you feel nauseated, light-headed, sweaty, or short of breath during or after a heparin injection.

Stop using heparin and call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:

  • sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body;
  • sudden severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance;
  • chest pain, sudden cough, wheezing, rapid breathing, fast heart rate;
  • pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in one or both legs;
  • trouble breathing;
  • (in an infant) extreme drowsiness, weakness, or gasping for breath;
  • fever, chills, runny nose, or watery eyes.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • mild pain, redness, warmth, or skin changes where the medicine was injected;
  • mild itching of your feet;
  • bluish-colored skin.

Not everyone experiences these side effects. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have any concerns about a side-effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Know the interactions

What drugs may interact with heparin?

Heparin may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. For your safety, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any drugs without your doctor’s approval.

Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use, especially:

  • Another blood thinner, such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven);
  • Digoxin (digitalis, Lanoxin, Lanoxicaps);
  • Dipyridamole (Persantine);
  • Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil, Quineprox);
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin);
  • Indomethacin (Indocin);
  • Nicotine cigarettes, gum, lozenges, or skin patches;
  • Nitroglycerin (Nitro Dur, Nitrolingual, Nitrostat, Transderm Nitro, and others);
  • An antibiotic such as demeclocycline (Declomycin), doxycycline (Adoxa, Alodox, Avidoxy, Oraxyl, Doryx, Oracea, Vibramycin), minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin, Solodyn), or tetracycline (Ala-Tet, Brodspec, Panmycin, Sumycin, Tetracap);
  • Cold, allergy, or sleep medications (Allerest, Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, Dimetapp, Sominex, Tylenol PM, and others);
  • Salicylates such as aspirin, Nuprin Backache Caplet, Kaopectate, kneerelief, Pamprin Cramp Formula, Pepto-Bismol, Tricosal, Trilisate, and others.

Does food or alcohol interact with heparin?

Heparin may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

What health conditions may interact with heparin?

Heparin may interact with your health condition. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. It is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have, especially:

  • Bacterial endocarditis (heart infection);
  • Bleeding problems (eg, hemophilia);
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure), severe;
  • Liver disease;
  • Major surgery (eg, eye, brain, or spine);
  • Menstrual bleeding (periods), heavy or unusual;
  • Spinal anesthesia (numbing medicine placed in the back);
  • Stomach or intestinal ulcer—Use with caution. The risk of bleeding may be increased.
  • Bleeding, active;
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelets in the blood) caused by heparin, history of;
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelets in the blood), severe—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.

Understand the Dosage

The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist before using this medication.

What is the dose of Heparin for an adult?

Usual Adult Dose for Deep Vein Thrombosis: Continuous IV Infusion: 5000 units IV one time as a bolus dose followed by 1300 units/hour by continuous IV infusion. Alternatively, a bolus dose of 80 units/kg IV one time followed by 18 units/kg/hour by continuous IV infusion may be used.
Intermittent subcutaneous injection: 17,500 units subcutaneously every 12 hours.
The dosage should be adjusted to maintain the aPTT at 1.5 to 2.5 times control.

Usual Adult Dose for Deep Vein Thrombosis – Prophylaxis: 5000 units subcutaneously every 8 to 12 hours. This dosage may be adjusted to maintain the aPTT at the upper end of the normal range.

Usual Adult Dose for Pulmonary Embolism: Continuous IV Infusion: 5000 units IV one time as a bolus dose followed by 1300 units/hour by continuous IV infusion. Alternatively, a bolus dose of 80 units/kg IV one time followed by 18 units/kg/hour by continuous IV infusion may be used.
If it is suspected that the patient has experienced a massive pulmonary embolism, a more appropriate initial dosage may be an IV bolus of 10,000 units followed by 1500 units/hour.
Intermittent subcutaneous injection: 17,500 units subcutaneously every 12 hours.
The dosage should be adjusted to maintain the aPTT at 1.5 to 2.5 times control.

Usual Adult Dose for Myocardial Infarction: 5000 units IV one time as a bolus dose followed by 1000 units/hour by continuous IV infusion.

Usual Adult Dose for Angina Pectoris: 5000 units IV one time as a bolus dose followed by 1000 units/hour by continuous IV infusion.

Usual Adult Dose for Anticoagulation During Pregnancy: 5000 units subcutaneously every 12 hours. This dosage may be adjusted to maintain the 6-hour aPTT at 1.5 times control or greater.

Usual Adult Dose for Thrombotic/Thromboembolic Disorder: 100 units/mL every 6 to 8 hours for PVC catheters and peripheral heparin locks. Additional flushes should be given when stagnant blood is observed in catheter, after catheter is used for drug or blood administration, and after blood withdrawal from catheter.
Addition of 0.5 to 1 unit/mL to peripheral and central TPN has been shown to increase duration of line patency. Arterial lines are heparinized with a final concentration of 1 unit/mL.

What is the dose of Heparin for a child?

Usual Pediatric Dose for Thrombotic/Thromboembolic Disorder: IV line flush:
Infant Dose: 10 units/mL every 6 to 8 hours.
Child Dose: 100 units/mL every 6 to 8 hours for PVC catheters and peripheral heparin locks. Additional flushes should be given when stagnant blood is observed in catheter, after catheter is used for drug or blood administration, and after blood withdrawal from catheter.
Addition of 0.5 to 1 unit/mL to peripheral and central TPN has been shown to increase duration of line patency. Arterial lines are heparinized with a final concentration of 1 unit/mL.

How is heparin available?

Heparin is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:

Solution, Injection, as sodium: 1000 units (500 mL), 2000 units (1000 mL), 25 000 units (250 mL, 500 mL); 1000 units/mL (1 mL, 10 mL, 30 mL); 2500 units/mL (10 mL); 5000 units/mL (1 mL, 10 mL); 10000 units/mL (1 mL, 4 mL, 5 mL); 20 000 units/mL (1 mL)

Solution, Intravenous, as sodium: 10 000 units (250 mL), 12.500 units (250 mL), 20 000 units (500 mL), 25 000 units (250 mL, 500 mL), 1 units/mL (1 mL, 2 mL, 2.5 mL, 3 mL, 5 mL, 10 mL), 2 units/mL (3 mL), 10 units/mL (1 mL, 2 mL, 2.5 mL, 3 mL, 5 mL, 10 mL, 30 mL), 100 units/mL (1 mL, 2 mL, 2.5 mL, 3 mL, 5 mL, 10 mL, 30 mL), 2000 units/mL (5 mL)

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to your nearest emergency room.

Symptoms of overdose may include:

  • Nosebleed;
  • Blood in urine;
  • Black, tarry stools;
  • Easy bruising;
  • Unusual bleeding;
  • Red blood in stools;
  • Vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of heparin , take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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