Molecular weight determines the frequency of delayed type hyper-sensitivity reactions to heparin and synthetic oligosaccharides

Ralf J. Ludwig*, Marc Schindewolf, Susanne Alban, Roland Kaufmann, Edelgard Lindhoff-Last, Wolf Henning Boehncke

*Corresponding author for this work
46 Citations (Scopus)


Eczematous lesions, resulting from type IV sensitizations are well-known and relatively frequent cutaneous adverse effects of s.c. heparin therapy. If anticoagulation is further required intravenous heparin, heparinoids or lepirudin may be used as a substitute. However, these alternatives are not optimal in terms of practicability and/or safety-profiles. As molecular weight of different heparin preparations has repetitively been implied to determine the frequency of sensitization, we hypothesized, that due to its low molecular weight the pentasaccharide fondaparinux may provide a practicable and safe anticoagulant therapy in patients with delayed type hypersensitivity reactions (DTH) to heparin and other oligosaccharides.To test this concept, patients referred for diagnosis of cutaneous reactions after s.c. anticoagulant treatment underwent a series of in vivo skin allergy- and challenge-tests with unfractionated heparin, a series of low molecular weight heparins (nadroparin, dalteparin, tinzaparin, enoxaparin and certoparin), the heparinoid danaparoid and the synthetic pentasaccharide fondaparinux. In total, data from twelve patients was evaluated. In accordance with previously published data, we report a high crossreactivity among heparins and heparinoids. In contrast - and in support of our initial hypothesis - sensitization towards the synthetic pentasaccharide fondaparinux was rarely observed. Plotting the cumulative incidence against the determined molecular weight of the individual anticoagulant preparations, shows that molecular weight generally is a key determinant of sensitization towards heparins and other oligosaccharides (r2=0.842, p=0.009). Hence, fondaparinux may be used as a therapeutic alternative in patients with cutaneous DTH relations towards heparin and other polysaccharides.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThrombosis and Haemostasis
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1265-1269
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2005


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