Objective: To evaluate the effect of heparin on thrombus formation and infection associated with use of central venous and pulmonary artery catheters.
Data sources: We used MEDLINE, EMBASE, citation review of relevant primary and review articles, personal files, and contact with expert informants.
Study selection: Fourteen randomized controlled trials evaluating prophylactic doses of heparin or heparin bonding were included.
Data extraction: In duplicate, independently, we abstracted data on the population, intervention, outcome, and methodologic quality.
Data synthesis: Prophylactic heparin decreases catheter-related venous thrombosis (relative risk [RR], 0.43; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.23, 0.78) and bacterial colonization (RR, 0.18; 95% CI, 0.06, 0.60) of central venous catheters and may decrease catheter-related bacteremia (RR, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.07, 1.03). Heparin bonding decreases the risk of pulmonary artery catheter clot formation within 24 h (RR, 0.08; 95% CI, 0.02, 0.37).
Conclusions: Heparin administration effectively reduces thrombus formation and may reduce catheter-related infections in patients who have central venous and pulmonary artery catheters in place. Cost-effectiveness comparisons of unfractionated heparin, low molecular weight heparin, and warfarin are needed.