Increased risk of stroke a major issue in analysis of 33 research projects
MONDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- An analysis of 33 studies on drugs known as beta blockers has concluded that they are not useful in any surgical procedure other than heart surgery. In fact, using beta blockers for non-coronary surgery may actually increase the risk of stroke, the scientists say.
The researchers who conducted the study -- known as a meta-analysis -- recommend that the guidelines committees of both the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association "soften" their recommendations that beta blockers be used to prevent surgical complications in non-coronary operations.
"Our study says that if you look at the overall picture, do a meta-analysis, studies that are not particularly well-done come to the conclusion that they are useful," said Dr. Franz Messerli, professor of medicine at Columbia University and an author of a report published online by The Lancet to coincide with the annual heart meeting now underway. "But if you look at the high-quality studies, there are distinctly more strokes with beta blockers." Beta blockers are drugs that inhibit adrenaline and slow the nerve impulses to the heart. They can also be used to treat irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia.
The meta-analysis did show a 35 percent reduced risk of heart attacks and a 64 percent reduction in less serious heart artery blockages among the more than 12,000 participants in all the studies where beta blockers were prescribed before surgery. But there was no overall reduction in total deaths, heart failure or deaths due to heart disease, and a doubled risk of nonfatal stroke.
Beta blocker usage was also associated with a high risk of bradycardia, low heart rate requiring medical treatment, which occurred in 1 of every 22 people getting beta blockers, and of lower blood pressure dangerous enough to require treatment.
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