What Statins Could Do for Bypass Patients

Statins used before, after coronary artery bypass grafting may reduce postoperative complications

(RxWiki News) If you're currently taking statins to lower your cholesterol and are also preparing for bypass surgery, you may be in luck.

A new study found that statins may lower the risk of postoperative complications, such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), when used both before and after coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). These cholesterol-lowering drugs may also lower the risk of death both during and immediately after surgery.

AFib is an irregular heartbeat that can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart problems.

"Previous research has shown that discontinuation of medication at the time of surgery is common practice," said lead study author Amr F. Barakat, MD, an internist at the Cleveland Clinic, in a press release. "The results of our review call for proactive efforts to counsel patients and surgeons about the benefit of statins — a benefit that definitely outweighs the risk of rare potential side effects."

CABG is a type of surgery used to treat some patients with coronary heart disease. In this condition, a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. During CABG, a healthy vein or artery from elsewhere in the body is grafted to the blocked coronary artery. This creates a new path for blood to flow to the heart.

It's common for the body to respond to major surgery involving prolonged anesthesia, such as CABG, with an intense inflammatory reaction. Statins are a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs that also have anti-inflammatory properties. These drugs are marketed under the brand names Lipitor, Pravachol and Crestor, among others.

For this study, Dr. Barakat and team looked at studies related to statin use both before and after CABG surgery published through July 2015.

They found that taking statins prior to CABG surgery appeared to protect patients against postoperative complications like AFib. Statin use was also tied to a lower risk of death both during and immediately after surgery.

Statins were well-tolerated among patients overall. The risk of side effects was low.

Despite these findings, Dr. Barakat and team cautioned that more research is still needed.

According to David J. Scott, RPh, PharmD, MBA, a clinical staff pharmacist at Scott Pharmacy in Fayette, IA, statins have many uses beyond just lowering cholesterol.

"Beyond their anti-inflammatory properties, statins may also help the body reabsorb cholesterol that has built up in plaques, making plaques less likely to rupture," Dr. Scott told RxWiki News. "Statins can help relax blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and may lower the risk of certain cancers, including colorectal and skin cancers. Statin use has also shown some protection for people at risk for pancreas inflammation and for kidney disease caused by the dye used for some medical imaging procedures."

The current study was published Jan. 12 in the journal Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
January 11, 2016