December 13, 2011

USA: Aspirin May Have Benefits Before Heart Surgery

NEW YORK, NY / The New York Times / Health / December 13, 2011

By Nicholas Bakalar

Credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Current guidelines recommend that people preparing for surgery stop taking aspirin at least a week before the operation, because the drug can increase the risk for bleeding. But a new analysis suggests that in heart surgery, aspirin’s benefits substantially outweigh its risks.

The observational study, published online recently in the Annals of Surgery, compared 1,923 cardiac patients who took aspirin before their operations and 945 who did not.

There were no significant differences between the two groups in body mass index, smoking status or congestive heart failure rates, but the patients taking aspirin were more likely to have a history of hypertension, diabetes, heart attack and other ailments.

Even though their health was generally poorer, the surgical patients who took aspirin before their operations fared better.

They had a lower risk of renal failure, a shorter stay in the intensive care unit, a reduced risk of major cardiac problems and a significant decrease in the risk for death in the month after the procedure. The authors believe that the anti-inflammatory properties of aspirin are responsible.

“The trend in cardiac surgery,” said the lead author, Dr. Jianzhong Sun, an anesthesiologist at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, “is to continue the medication that patients need for their daily lives — aspirin and other medicines, as well.”

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