(RxWiki News) Heart surgery may seem frightening, but there are steps you can take to minimize complications. Researchers say one method is surprisingly easy: take aspirin during the five days leading up to cardiac surgery.
Taking the over-the-counter medication appears to significantly decrease the risks of major postoperative complications such as kidney failure, a longer intensive care unit stay or death within 30 days of surgery.
"Follow your cardiologist's orders prior to heart surgery."
Researchers from both Thomas Jefferson University and University of California Davis Medical Center called the discovery significant because even with advances, major complications after heart surgery remain high.
Jianzhong Sun, an anesthesiologist at Thomas Jefferson University and lead author of the study, said that few treatments are available to reduce serious complications after cardiac surgery, and those that are available have proved ineffective. He noted that such complications are costly to patients' health and quality of life.
Researchers enrolled 4,256 adult heart surgery patients during the study. The most common operations were coronary artery bypass or valve surgery. Patients had their operations at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital or UC Davis Medical Center between 2001 and 2009.
Of 2,868 participants who met certain criteria, 1,923 took between 81 milligrams to 325 milligrams of aspirin at least once a day during the five days leading up to surgery. An additional 945 patients did not take aspirin before their operation.
Investigators found that aspirin therapy was associated with a decreased risk of dying within 30 days, major adverse cardiocerebral events and postoperative renal failure. Patients who took aspirin also had briefer stays in the intensive care unit.
Nilas Young, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at UC Davis and a study co-author, noted that it was already known that aspirin could save the lives of heart attack patients. He added that doctors now know the therapy can do the same for patients who undergo certain heart operations.
Though the findings are positive, bleeding is a concern with the aspirin therapy. Antifibrinolytic therapy, which prevents blood thinning, could help patients avoid the potential for excess bleeding.
Investigators said that additional study is needed before doctors can recommend aspirin therapy to heart surgery patients.
The study will be published in the journal Annals of Surgery.