Poly(vinyl alcohol)-heparin hydrogels with varying water content were synthesized for use as sensor catheter membranes. Films were cast from aqueous mixtures of poly(viny) alcohol) (PVA), a photosensitive cross-linker p-diazonium diphenyl amine polymer (PA), glutaraldehyde (GA) and heparin. After drying, the films were cross-linked by successive UV irradiation and heat treatment. To get an indication about the cross-linking density of the networks, the water content of the hydrogels was measured after equilibration in water. Hydrogels from PVA, PA, GA and heparin, with a water content of 35–95%, could be obtained if the components were dissolved in saline instead of water. The release of heparin from PVA-heparin or PVA-PA-heparin hydrogels was studied using different receiving phases. The cumulative amount of released heparin appeared to be dependent on the initial water content of the hydrogels and the composition of the receiving phase. For the PVA-PA-heparin hydrogels as well as the PVA-heparin hydrogels the cumulative amount of released heparin in water was about six times higher than in a Tris buffer. Using Tris buffer as receiving phase PVA-PA-heparin hydrogels with water contents of 53, 61or 71% released heparin for at least 3 wk. The cumulative amount of released heparin increased with initial water content of these hydrogels. Recalcification times (RCT) of plasma exposed to PVA-PA-heparin hydrogels (water content 53%), which released heparin at a low rate (2 μg/cm2 per day), were markedly prolonged compared with the RCT values for PVA-PA hydrogels without heparin. This indicates that the activation of the coagulation of plasma exposed to these PVA-PA-heparin hydrogels is inhibited by the release of heparin from these hydrogels even at low rates. In addition, permeability studies showed that the PVA-PA-heparin hydrogels were impermeable for bovine serum albumin (BSA).