THURSDAY, March 16, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Heart surgery patients taking statins should keep taking those cholesterol-lowering drugs, even on the day of their operation, because doing so may improve their chances of survival, a new study suggests.
"Based on our findings, we would advise patients to continue taking their statin medication all the way up to and including the day of surgery," said study author Dr. Wei Pan.
Statins are one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States. One in four Americans 40 or older takes a statin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the new study, Pan's team looked at more than 3,000 patients who underwent coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Pan is a cardiovascular anesthesiologist at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston.
The findings showed that the rate of death from all causes within 30 days was about 2 percent for those who took statins 24 hours or less before their operation.
In those who took statins 24 to 72 hours before their operation, the rate of death was nearly 3 percent. And, for those who never took statins or who took statins more than 72 hours before the surgery, the death rate was just under 4 percent, the researchers said.
The study was published online March 16 in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.
"Patients frequently forget to take their pills on the day of surgery, or they've been told to stop certain medications," Pan said in a journal news release.
"This study shows that not taking your statin for even one day before cardiac surgery may increase your risk of death after surgery," he said.
"Statins are ubiquitous today, so this study is especially important as it highlights that a patient simply adhering to his or her already prescribed statin medication and not stopping it prematurely could be lifesaving," Pan said.
The researchers noted that they believe this is the first study to look specifically at the timing of statin medication before surgery.
Dr. Todd Rosengart is a cardiothoracic surgeon at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who wasn't involved in the study.
He said in the news release that "this is an important study that clearly extends our understanding of the growing importance of statins in benefiting patients with cardiovascular disease."
Although the study found a link between regular statin use and increased survival rates in these patients, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on statins.