Incidence and causes of heparin-induced skin lesions

Schindewolf, Marc; Schwaner, Svantje; Wolter, Manfred; Kroll, Hartmut; Recke, Andreas; Kaufmann, Roland; Boehncke, Wolf-Henning; Lindhoff-Last, Edelgard; Ludwig, Ralf J.
October 2009
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;10/13/2009, Vol. 181 Issue 8, p477
Academic Journal
Background: Little is known about the incidence and causes of heparin-induced skin lesions. The 2 most commonly reported causes of heparin-induced skin lesions are immune-mediated heparin-induced thrombocytopenia and delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions. Methods: We prospectively examined consecutive patients who received subcutaneous heparin (most often enoxaparin or nadroparin) for the presence of heparin-induced skin lesions. If such lesions were identified, we perfor med a skin biopsy, platelet count measurements, and antiplatelet-factor 4 antibody and allergy testing. Results: We enrolled 320 patients. In total, 24 patients (7.5%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 4.7%-10.6%) had heparin-induced skin lesions. Delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions were identified as the cause in all 24 patients. One patient with histopathologic evidence of delayedtype hypersensitivity tested positive for antiplatelet-factor 4 antibodies. We identified the following risk factors for heparin-induced skin lesions: a body mass index greater than 25 (odds ratio [OR] 4.6, 95% CI 1.7-15.3), duration of heparin therapy longer than 9 days (OR 5.9, 95% CI 1.9- 26.3) and female sex (OR 3.0, 95% CI 1.1-8.8). Interpretation: Heparin-induced skin lesions are relatively common, have identifiable risk factors and are commonly caused by a delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction (type IV allergic response). (ClinicalTrials.gov trial register no. NCT00510432.)


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