Low-dose heparin for the prevention of post-ERCP pancreatitis: a randomized placebo-controlled trial.

Surg Endosc. 2008 Sep;22(9):1971-6. Epub 2008 Jan 24.

Barkay O, Niv E, Santo E, Bruck R, Hallak A, Konikoff FM.

Department of Gastroenterology, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, 6 Weizmann Street, Tel Aviv 64239, Israel. olgabi@netvision.net.il


BACKGROUND: As suggested by observational and animal studies, heparin has antiinflammatory effects that could prevent acute post-endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) pancreatitis. Low-molecular-weight heparin did not reduce the incidence of post-ERCP pancreatitis in a controlled study. The current study aimed to determine whether prophylactic administration of low-dose unfractionated heparin, which has potentially more antiinflammatory capability, can prevent acute post-ERCP pancreatitis.

METHODS: Patients scheduled for ERCP in the authors’ department were randomized to receive unfractionated heparin (5,000 IU) or placebo (saline solution 0.5 ml) administered subcutaneously 20 to 30 min before the ERCP. Patients who had undergone endoscopic sphincterotomy in the past were excluded from the study. Post-ERCP pancreatitis was defined according to criteria established by Cotton: abdominal pain combined with a threefold elevation of blood amylase 24 h after the ERCP.

RESULTS: The study enrolled 106 patients. One patient was excluded from the analysis due to inaccessible papilla of Vater, leaving 51 patients in the heparin group and 54 in the placebo group, for a total of 105 patients (62 women and 43 men) with a mean age of 64.6 years. The rate of post-ERCP pancreatitis was not different between the groups (heparin, 4 patients, 7.8%; placebo, 4 patients, 7.4%). Two patients in each group experienced mild bleeding.

CONCLUSIONS: The study did not demonstrate a significant effect of low-dose unfractionated heparin in the prevention of post-ERCP pancreatitis. A multicenter trial with a larger number of patients is needed to demonstrate a benefit from this drug.