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One in Five Patients Undergoing Major Surgery Develop Heart Complications

MAJOR noncardiac surgery leads to development of one or more heart complications within a year for one in five patients. This is according to new research from the University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland, reported in a press release dated 14th October 2020. 

A total of 2,265 high-risk patients who had undergone noncardiac surgery were enrolled in the study. The average age was 73 years, 43% were female, and patients were followed up for 1 year. Because over 300 million surgeries are performed globally each year, it is important to understand the cardiac events they can trigger, such as heart attacks, heart failure, heart rhythm disturbances, and death. 

The key findings were that one in seven (15%) of the patients had at least one cardiac complication within 30 days, though for most it was within the first week; this incidence was highest amongst patients who had undergone thoracic surgery (22%), followed by vascular surgery (21%), and trauma surgery (19%). Within a year, at least one in five (21%) patients had at least one heart complication.  

This was one of the first studies to monitor patients for asymptomatic heart attacks after surgery, and the results have shown the need for measuring troponin levels before surgery and for 2 days afterwards, to help to identify patients who may be at risk of further complications.  

Dr Christian Puelacher, study author, also noted that: “Our results indicate that this high-risk patient group has an elevated likelihood of having an adverse cardiac event for 3–5 months after major surgery.” 

However, the study did not investigate how to improve patient outcomes, and so Dr Puelacher suggested that patients do not postpone their surgery, but instead “quit smoking, be physically active, and eat healthily so your body is in better shape.”