Having Heart Surgery? Don’t Stop Your Statins

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Taking statins the day of a coronary artery bypass operation may significantly improve survival, a study in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery found.

Researchers looked at 3,021 heart surgery patients, most of whom were taking cholesterol-lowering statins. The 1,788 who continued statins up to the day of surgery had a risk of death within 30 days of 1.7 percent, compared with 2.9 percent for 452 who stopped one to three days before surgery, and 3.8 percent for 781 who did not take statins or stopped more than 72 hours before their operations.

The scientists had no data on how long patients had been taking statins, but only on when they stopped. After controlling for many preoperative health and behavioral characteristics, they found that compared with other patients, those who took statins on the day of surgery had a 48 percent reduced risk of dying in the next 30 days.

“We already knew that people on statins before surgery had a decreased risk of death,” said a co-author, Dr. Yi Deng, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Baylor College of Medicine. “But there’s never before been data saying how harmful stopping shortly before surgery can be. Unless you have some other reason to stop them, you should take statins right up to the morning of surgery.”