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Uses of Heparin

  • To treat and prevent the formation of blood clots in leg veins (deep vein thrombosis), lungs (pulmonary embolism), in catheters (a thin tube) used in veins for a longer period.
  • It prevents the formation of blood clots in the heart following a heart attack (mural thrombosis) and chest pain due to blockage in blood vessels of the heart (angina).

Contraindications of Heparin

When should one not use Heparin

  • If you are allergic to heparin or had an episode of skin allergy following heparin use.
  • You may have high blood pressure or purpura (purple spots due to leakage of blood within the skin).
  • If you are undergoing surgery of the brain, spine or eye, a lumbar puncture or local anaesthetic nerve block, or other procedure where bleeding could be a problem.
  • Take diclofenac (pain and inflammation) intravenously.
  • If you drink too often or a large amount of alcohol and bleeding from anywhere in the body.
  • You may have a bleeding disorder or have haemophilia (a rare disorder where your blood does not clot easily).
  • You may have active tuberculosis, serious liver disorder or if you bruise easily.
  • The injection must not be administered intramuscularly or following a trauma.

Side effects of Heparin

Common side effects of this drug are:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Tingling or numbness in legs
  • Back pain
  • Allergy
  • Local irritation
  • Itching
  • Rashes
  • Nose bleeds
  • Black tarry stools

Precautions and Warnings of Heparin



Can I take heparin during pregnancy?
Heparin can be given during pregnancy. Inform the doctor about the expected delivery dates since the injection must not be taken before delivery and should be stopped at the onset of labour. If you had a miscarriage you should inform the doctor. Osteoporosis occurs (thinner bones) on excess use of heparin for a long time during pregnancy.

Breast Feeding

Can I take heparin while breastfeeding?
Ask the doctor or nurse if you wish to breastfeed to avoid undesirable effects in the breastfed infant.


Can I drive if I have been given heparin?
Heparin does not influence your driving abilities.


Can I consume alcohol while treatment with heparin?
The medicine is contraindicated in individuals who consume alcohol too frequently in large amounts.

Other General Warnings

Talk to your doctor if
  • You may have a health condition that makes you more likely to bleed like stomach ulcer, hernia, inflammation of the heart, problems in the back of your eye, piles, a stroke, cancer or threatened misca...
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  • You are elderly, over 60 years of age.
  • You may have diabetes, excess acid or high levels of potassium in the blood or are taking a medicine that may increase the potassium level in the blood (e.g. amiloride, triamterene).
  • You may have kidney or liver disease or suffer from allergies or have previously had an allergy after taking similar medicines.
  • Taking other medications may affect blood clotting.
  • The doctor may ask for a blood test for several weeks after the end of the heparin treatment. This is so the doctor checks the level of the clotting cells (platelets) in the blood.
  • The doctor will check your blood if you receive treatment for longer than five days and may do other blood tests if you have major surgery.
  • You have been on epidural anaesthesia (given into the spine).
  • You may have signs of tingling, weakness or numbness in your lower legs or body, back pain or problems in passing urine.
  • You must remind the doctor that you are on heparin before you receive an anaesthetic.

Mode of Action of Heparin

How Does It Work?

Heparin is an anticoagulant medicine it works by inactivating certain enzymes involved in blood coagulation and hence reduces the clotting ability of blood.

Interactions of Heparin

Interactions with other medicines

  • Pain killers, analgesics and anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin, ketorolac and intravenous diclofenac must be avoided while on treatment with the injection as the concomitant use may impose the ...
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  • Medicines that interfere with blood coagulation should be avoided. If you are not sure which are these medicines, ask the doctor or nurse.
  • Other anticoagulants or antiplatelet medicines that are taken orally should be avoided while on treatment with the medicine.
  • Antibiotics like cefaclor, cefixime and ceftriaxone may affect the coagulation process and impose the risk of bleeding hence the concomitant use should be avoided.
  • Probenecid is used for the treatment of gout may increase the anticoagulant effect of the medicine.
  • Potassium levels increase if you are taking certain antihypertensive medicines or aliskiren. This can be detected by a blood test, let your doctor know about the blood pressure-lowering medicine you ...
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Content Details


Dr. Arpit Verma

MBBS, MD (Pharmacology)


Dr. Ritu Budania

MBBS, MD (Pharmacology)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q: What is Heparin?

A: Heparin is an anticoagulant or blood thinner. It is used to prevent or treat the formation of blood clots in the body. It does not reduce the size of blood clots that are already formed.
Last Updated on: 25 Aug 2021 | 07:58 PM (IST)

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