Heparin is used to prevent blood clots from forming in people who have certain medical conditions or who are undergoing certain medical procedures that increase the chance that clots will form. Heparin is also used to stop the growth of clots that have already formed in the blood vessels, but it cannot be used to decrease the size of clots that have already formed. Heparin is also used in small amounts to prevent blood clots from forming in catheters (small plastic tubes through which medication can be administered or blood drawn) that are left in veins over a period of time. Heparin is in a class of medications called anticoagulants ('blood thinners'). It works by decreasing the clotting ability of the blood.
Heparin comes as a solution (liquid) to be injected intravenously (into a vein) or deeply under the skin and as a dilute (less concentrated) solution to be injected into intravenous catheters. Heparin should not be injected into a muscle. Heparin is sometimes injected one to six times a day and sometimes given as a slow, continuous injection into the vein. 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 may be given to you by a nurse or other healthcare provider, or you may be told to inject the medication by yourself at home. If you will be injecting heparin yourself, a healthcare provider will show you how to inject the medication. Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you do not understand these directions or have any questions about where on your body you should inject heparin, how to give the injection, or how to dispose of used needles and syringes after you inject the medication.
If you will be injecting heparin yourself, follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Use heparin exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of it or use it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Heparin solution comes in different strengths, and using the wrong strength may cause serious problems. Before giving an injection of heparin, check the package label to make sure it is the strength of heparin solution that your doctor prescribed for you. If the strength of heparin is not correct do not use the heparin and call your doctor or pharmacist right away.
Your doctor may increase or decrease your dose during your heparin treatment. If you will be injecting heparin yourself, be sure you know how much medication you should use.
Heparin is also sometimes used alone or in combination with aspirin to prevent pregnancy loss and other problems in pregnant women who have certain medical conditions and who have experienced these problems in their earlier pregnancies. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the risks of using this medication to treat your condition.
This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Before using heparin,
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
If you will be injecting heparin yourself at home, talk to your doctor about what you should do if you forget to inject a dose.
Heparin may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
Heparin may cause osteoporosis (condition in which the bones become weak and may break easily), especially in people who use the medication for a long time. Talk to your doctor about the risks of using this medication.
Heparin may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while using this medication.
If you will be injecting heparin at home, your healthcare provider will tell you how to store the medication. Follow these directions carefully. Be sure to keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Do not freeze heparin.
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers (such as weekly pill minders and those for eye drops, creams, patches, and inhalers) are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location – one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach. Web Site
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA's Safe Disposal of Medicines website ( Web Site) for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at Web Site. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can't be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.
Symptoms of overdose may include:
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your body's response to heparin. Your doctor may ask you to check your stool for blood using an at-home test.
Before having any laboratory test, tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are using heparin.
Do not let anyone else use your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
¶ This branded product is no longer on the market. Generic alternatives may be available.
AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.
Selected Revisions: September 15, 2017.