Call to weigh patients before starting heparin therapy

Patients must be weighed before being given anticoagulation therapy with low molecular weight heparins (LMWHs), the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) has warned.

The agency has issued a Rapid Response Report calling on NHS organisations to ensure that each patient’s weight is used as the basis for calculating LMWH doses. Patients should be weighed at the start of therapy and when appropriate during treatment, according to the NPSA.

Professor David Cousins, the NPSA’s head of patient safety for medication and medical devices, said that LMWHs are widely used throughout the NHS to treat thromboembolic events.

'Thousands of patients are treated safely and effectively each year with no complications or incidents that could cause harm,’ he said.

But he added: ‘Due to the complexities around the calculation of the correct dosing, the NPSA feels that this guidance is vital. It is essential that each patient is given safe treatment and this guidance will assist clinicians and reduce the likelihood of harm.’

Since 2005, an average of 2,700 patient safety incidents a year have been linked to the use of LMWHs.

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