Statins reduce the risk of stroke and death after carotid artery surgery

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Carotid artery endarterectomy (CEA) is the most commonly performed operation to prevent stroke in the United States. However, the operation itself carries a small risk of stroke. Statin drugs provide protection against stroke and death for patients undergoing CEA when given during the week prior to surgery, according to a new study to be published in the November issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery.

"Carotid endarterectomy is the most frequently performed operation in peripheral vascular surgery--160,000 to 180,000 of these operations occur each year," said Bruce A. Perler, MD, MBA, lead author of the study. "Even in the best of hands, 1 to 5 percent of patients will have a stroke or die as a complication of the surgery. If we can cut that in half or by two-thirds, that's important."

Dr. Perler, who is the Julius H. Jacobson II Professor of Surgery at The Johns Hopkins University and chief of the division of vascular surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., spoke today at the American Medical Association's 24th annual Science Reporters Conference in Washington, D.C.

The study involved a chart review of 1,566 patients who underwent CEA between 1994 and 2004 at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. Six hundred fifty-seven, or 42 percent, of these patients received a statin medication for at least one week prior to surgery. Patients who received statin drugs were significantly more likely than others in the study to have cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, male gender and a history of smoking. Yet these high-risk patients experienced a three-fold lower rate of stroke during the days immediately following surgery and a five-fold lower rate of mortality in the same period.

"Statin drugs have been described as the penicillin of the 21st century because while they're given to lower cholesterol le

Contact: Eric Vohr
American Medical Association

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