Patient Care

Long-Term Βeta-Blocker Use May Cause More Harm in Patients Undergoing Surgery


Clinical question: What is the harm associated with long-term beta-blocker therapy in patients with uncomplicated hypertension undergoing non-cardiac surgery?

Background: Given the recent concerns over the validity of prior studies, there is uncertainty about which patients benefit most from perioperative beta-blockade. Current guidelines suggest continuing beta-blockers in the perioperative period. More data are needed to delineate which patients maximally benefit from perioperative beta-blockade.

Study design: Association study.

Setting: Danish nationwide cohort of patients.

Synopsis: Study investigators included 55,320 uncomplicated hypertension (no cardiovascular, renal, or liver disease) patients >19 years of age on ≥2 antihypertensive drugs undergoing non-cardiac surgery. In the 14,664 patients who received beta-blockers, the rates of 30-day major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE; cardiovascular death, nonfatal ischemic stroke, and nonfatal myocardial infarction) and 30-day all-cause mortality were 1.32% and 1.93%, respectively. However, in the 40,676 patients who did not receive beta-blockers, 30-day MACEs and 30-day all-cause mortality rates were 0.84% and 1.32%, respectively (P<0.001). When looking at the individual MACEs, cardiovascular death was the only statistically significant event with higher incidence (0.9% versus 0.45%, P<0.001).

Combination therapy with beta-blocker and RAS inhibitor, calcium channel blockers, or thiazide was associated with statistically significant higher risks of MACEs and all-cause mortality when compared to the combination of RAS inhibitor plus thiazide. Men >70 years of age or undergoing urgent surgery had the highest risk of harm. This study was not a randomized control trial, so caution must be used when attributing causality to beta-blockers, MACEs, and all-cause mortality.

Bottom line: Antihypertensive regimens containing beta-blockers may increase risk of perioperative MACEs and all-cause mortality in patients with uncomplicated hypertension.

Citation: Jorgensen ME, Hlatky MA, Kober L, et al. β-blocker-associated risks in patients with uncomplicated hypertension undergoing noncardiac surgery. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(12):1923-1931.

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