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Taking statins before heart surgery may reduce complications

A new study suggests statin use reduces risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney problems after surgery.
By Stephen Feller   |   Jan. 12, 2016 at 12:27 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Patients treated with statins before and after coronary artery bypass grafting fare better after surgery, according to a new study.

Researchers found giving heart patients statins reduced cardiac complications and the risk of death connected to the procedure.

Doctors often stop patients from taking statins -- a group of drugs used to reduce cholesterol production -- before and immediately after surgery because of the potential for adverse health effects, but researchers say side effects are rare and benefits appear to outweigh the risks.

"It appears that taking statins prior to CABG surgery can help protect patients against developing atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that is a common complication following heart surgery," said Dr. Islam Elgendy, a research fellow at the University of Florida, in a press release. "Statin use also seems to be associated with a reduced risk of death during and immediately after surgery."

Researchers at the University of Florida and Cleveland Clinic involved with the study, published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, analyzed 21 studies, comparing risk for negative health outcomes and potential adverse effects of statins between patients who remained on them before and after surgery with those who did not.

One benefit of statins is their anti-inflammatory property, which appears to counteract some of the inflammatory reaction to prolonged exposure to anesthesia during surgery.

Future research is needed on optimal dosage, as well as other impacts of statins. While current evidence suggests statin use reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney problems after surgery, Dr. Amr Barakat, a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic, said more research is needed on the preventative effects of the drugs.

"It's important to be on a statin if you have coronary artery disease, and to continue with the medicine before and after surgery," Elgendy told the New York Times. "The results of this review call for active efforts to counsel patients and surgeons about the benefits of statins that definitely outweigh the risks of their rare potential side effects," he said.

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