Heparin is used to prevent the formation of blood clots in patients with certain medical conditions or those undergoing certain medical procedures that increase their risk of clot formation. It can be used to halt the growth of clots already present in the blood vessels, but it cannot reduce the size of already-existing clots. It is classified as an anticoagulant medication or “blood thinner”.
Heparin works by binding to antithrombin III (ATIII) and greatly accelerating the rate at which ATIII inactivates coagulation enzymes thrombin (factor IIa) and factor Xa, which are involved in blood clotting. This prevents the formation of blood clots in the body, which can lead to a variety of serious medical conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and stroke.
Use and Dosage
Heparin is available in vials. It is injected one to six times a day and sometimes given as a slow, continuous injection into the vein directed by a healthcare provider. When heparin is used to prevent blood clots from forming in intravenous catheters, it is usually used when the catheter is first put in place, and every time that blood is drawn out of the catheter or medication is given through the catheter.
Heparin is typically administered by injection either intravenously or subcutaneously, and the dosage and duration of treatment may vary depending on the patient’s medical condition and response to therapy. Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions carefully and report any unusual side effects or bleeding immediately.
Heparin should not be injected into a muscle. The dosage and frequency of administration are determined based on the patient’s medical condition, weight, and response to treatment. If heparin is injected into a vein, flush the catheter/line with normal saline before and after infusing medications that may interact with heparin, such as doxorubicin, droperidol, ciprofloxacin, and mitoxantrone.
Common Side Effects of Heparin Vials (Heparin Sodium, Porcine):
- Bluish-colored skin
- Easy bleeding and bruising
- Itching of your feet
- Skin changes where the medicine was injected
Serious Side Effects of Heparin Vials (Heparin Sodium, Porcine):
- Blood in urine
- Chest pain, pressure, or squeezing discomfort
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
- Discomfort in the arms, shoulder, jaw, neck, or back
- Excessive sweating
- Excessive tiredness
- Itching and burning, especially on the bottoms of the feet
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Pain and blue or dark discoloration in the arms or legs
- Painful erection that lasts for hours
- Purple or black skin discoloration
- Shortness of breath
- Stool that contains bright red blood or is black and tarry
- Sudden confusion, or difficulty speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden severe headache
- Sudden trouble walking
- Unusual bruising or bleeding
Forms and Strength
Heparin Vials (Heparin Sodium, Porcine) is available in the following forms and strength:
Heparin Sodium, Porcine: Vial
- 10000 iu/mL
- Extreme caution is required to avoid medication errors, as there are numerous concentrations available.
- Heparin sodium may prolong one-stage prothrombin time, so close monitoring of blood clotting parameters is necessary.
- Heparin may increase the risk of bleeding, so it should be used with caution in patients with bleeding disorders or a history of bleeding.
- Uncontrollable active bleeding is a contraindication to heparin use.
- Extra caution should be observed in the administration of heparin lock solutions to prevent accidental overdose or underdose.
- Heparin should be used with caution in patients with hypertension, as it may increase blood pressure.
- Pork allergy is a potential risk for patients who are allergic to pork products. Heparin is derived from the porcine intestinal mucosa.
- Heparin may cause thrombocytopenia, which is a dangerous decrease in platelet count that increases the risk of bleeding. Blood cell counts should be monitored regularly.
- Heparin should be used with caution in patients with liver or kidney dysfunction, as it may increase the risk of bleeding or other adverse effects.
- Heparin may interact with other medications, including antiplatelet drugs, fibrinolytic, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Healthcare providers should review all medications and drug history prior to initiating heparin therapy.
- Risk of spinal/epidural hematoma in patients with neuraxial anesthesia or undergoing spinal puncture while on heparin therapy.
- Heparin flushes are contraindicated in premature infants (less than 1500 grams birthweight) because of the benzyl alcohol content.
- The potential harm of heparin to a developing fetus during pregnancy is unclear; heparin should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed and when the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can Heparin be given at home?
Yes, some patients may receive Heparin injections at home, although proper training is necessary to ensure safe and effective administration.
How should Heparin vials be stored?
Heparin vials should be stored at room temperature and protected from light. Do not freeze.
What should I do if I miss a dose of Heparin?
If you miss a dose of Heparin, contact your healthcare provider for instructions on what to do.
Can Heparin be used in patients with a history of bleeding disorders?
Heparin should be used with caution in patients with bleeding disorders or a history of bleeding. Uncontrollable active bleeding is a contraindication to heparin use.
Is there a risk of allergic reactions to Heparin in patients with pork allergies?
Yes, patients who are allergic to pork products may be at risk for allergic reactions to Heparin, as it is derived from the porcine intestinal mucosa.