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News2007June › Surgery: Heart problems not helped by drugs › June 2007

Surgery: Heart problems not helped by drugs

Around 1 million people suffer heart complications, such as heart attack, angina and heart failure, every year after surgery

Around 1 million people suffer heart complications, such as heart attack, angina and heart failure, every year after surgery. Of these, 250,000 die.

These complications - which affect around 1 per cent of the 100 million patients who have surgery every year worldwide - are a direct result of the operation itself as, in each case, the person had a healthy heart.

To try to reduce the risk, anaesthetists routinely give patients beta blockers and statins. This procedure was based on some very early studies that soon became the by-word for good practice.

But doctors have been noticing that the drugs don't seem to help at all, and so researchers have been looking at the practice again with the help of 1520 patients, who were assigned to one of three separate trials.

In one, 921 patients in Denmark were given the beta blocker metoprolol after surgery - but it did nothing to help prevent post-operative heart problems during the 30 days after surgery. The drug was equally as ineffective when it was given to 103 patients in the UK over the same period, and to 496 patients, who were monitored for six months after surgery.

(Source: British Medical Journal, 2007; 334: 1283-4).

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