06 jan 2009-- Elderly patients who take cholesterol-lowering statins before cardiac surgery may lower their chances of having postoperative delirium, a new study finds.
Depending on variables such as age and the complexity of the surgery, up to 47 percent of people experience this condition of confusion following heart surgery. The condition adds to hospital stay length, health care costs and may contribute to higher death rates, experts say.
But in the Toronto General Hospital study of 1,059 patients, pre-op statins appeared to cut the chances of having delirium almost in half.
"The underlying mechanism of delirium is unknown," study leader Dr. Rita Katznelson, an anesthesiologist at the hospital, said in a news release issued by the journal's publisher. "However, identifying factors that can stop or provoke this condition may help to understand the disease better and create strategies to prevent it."
She estimated that delirium adds about $6.9 billion to Medicare hospital expenditures.
The findings were published in the January issue of the journal Anesthesiology.
Statins have been shown to lower morbidity and mortality rates after cardiac and major non-cardiac surgery in previous studies and to offer the central nervous system protection from injury, the researchers noted.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about delirium.