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Cholesterol Drugs May Raise Post-Op Delirium Risk
Date:9/22/2008

Patients on statin medications 30% more likely to experience trouble, study finds

MONDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- People who are taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs -- which include Crestor, Lipitor, Pravachol and Zocor -- are more likely to suffer delirium after surgery, a Canadian study indicates.

Delirium is a common, and commonly neglected, experience for older people after any sort of surgery, according to study lead author Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

"It's quite striking how some people are unable to recognize family members and don't know where they are," Redelmeier said. "It is sometimes prolonged and severe."

His team published its findings in the Sept. 23 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study included more than 284,000 people, 65 years of age and older, who had surgery in Ontario hospitals. The researchers reported that the incidence of delirium was 1 out of every 90 patients, but it was 30 percent more likely to occur in those taking statins before surgery.

These statistics are almost certainly too low, however, because "there is no question that delirium is often overlooked by the surgeon or family members or even the patient himself," Redelmeier said.

His estimate is that delirium occurs after about 10 percent of all surgical procedures, and that the incidence is 13 percent among people taking statins.

Redelmeier said he looked for a possible link between statins and post-op delirium, because "all clinical trials of statins focus on otherwise healthy outpatients under normal circumstances. Whereas, from my work in hospitals, I have found that medications that are safe under normal circumstances might not be safe at the time of surgery." Blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin, as well as sleeping pills, are other examples of drugs that raise delirium risks, he said.


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