Statin timing and dosage may improve heart surgery outcomes

Statin timing and dosage may improve heart surgery outcomes

Patients on statins should not stop taking the cholesterol-lowering medication before heart surgery—even on the day of surgery, according to an article in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

The new research shows that continuation of statins may significantly improve survival following the operation.

“Patients frequently forget to take their pills on the day of surgery, or they’ve been told to stop certain medications,” said Wei Pan, MD, a cardiovascular anesthesiologist at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston.

“This study shows that not taking your statin for even 1 day before cardiac surgery may increase your risk of death after surgery.

“Based on our findings, we would advise patients to continue taking their statin medication all the way up to and including the day of surgery.”

Dr. Pan and colleagues examined data from 3,025 patients who underwent coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) between July 2005 and May 2011 at the Texas Heart Institute to determine the optimal dose and timing of preoperative statin administration.

For patients who were admitted to the hospital on the day of operation, the researchers reviewed preoperative medication questionnaires to determine the timing and dosage of the statin administered.

For those who were inpatients, nursing administration records were reviewed.

The researchers found that for the 59% of patients (1,788) who had taken statins 24 hours or less before their operation, the incidence of 30-day all-cause mortality (estimate of deaths from any cause within 30 days of surgery) was 1.7%.

That compares to 2.9% for those who took statins 24 to 72 hours preoperatively and 3.8% for those who did not take statins or whose last dose was more than 72 hours before the surgery.

“As far as we know, this is the first study that specifically looks at timing of the last statin dose taken before surgery,” explained Dr. Pan.

“Statins are ubiquitous today, so this study is especially important as it highlights that a patient simply adhering to his or her already prescribed statin medication and not stopping it prematurely could be lifesaving.”

Doctors sometimes advise patients to stop taking statins—a class of drugs used to manage cholesterol levels and prevent/treat heart disease—before heart surgery because of the potential for adverse health effects.

However, earlier research has shown that statin use before surgery is well tolerated and that the benefits often outweigh any potential negative side effects.

Researchers suspect that the anti-inflammatory properties of statins that help promote blood flow may counteract some of the inflammatory reactions to prolonged anesthesia exposure during surgery.

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News source: The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.