Intensive care unit (ICU) patients are predisposed to thromboembolism. Routine prophylactic anticoagulation is widely recommended. Low-molecular-weight heparins, such as enoxaparin, are increasingly used because of predictable pharmacokinetics. This study aims to determine the subcutaneous (SC) dose of enoxaparin that would give the best anti-factor Xa levels in ICU patients.
The 72 patients admitted to a mixed ICU at Odense University Hospital (OUH) in Denmark were randomised into four groups to receive 40, 50, 60, or 70 mg SC enoxaparin for a period of 24 hours. Anti-factor Xa activity (aFXa) was measured before, and at 4, 12, and 24 hours after administration. An AFXa level between 0.1 to 0.3 IU/ml was considered evidence of effective antithrombotic activity.
Median peak (4 hours after administration), aFXa levels increased significantly with an increase in enoxaparin dose, from 0.13 IU/ml at 40 mg, to 0.14 IU/ml at 50 mg, 0.27 IU/ml at 60 mg, and 0.29 IU/ml at 70 mg (P = 0.002). At 12 hours after administration, median aFXa levels were still within therapeutic range for those patients who received 60 mg (P = 0.02).
Our study confirmed that a standard dose of 40 mg enoxaparin yielded subtherapeutic levels of aFXa in critically ill patients. Higher doses resulted in better peak aFXa levels, with a ceiling effect observed at 60 mg. The present study seems to suggest inadequate dosage as one of the possible mechanisms for the higher failure rate of enoxaparin in ICU patients.