The Lancet, Volume 372, Issue 9654, Pages 1962 - 1976, 6 December 2008

Perioperative β blockers in patients having non-cardiac surgery: a meta-analysis

 

Summary

Background

American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) guidelines on perioperative assessment recommend perioperative β blockers for non-cardiac surgery, although results of some clinical trials seem not to support this recommendation. We aimed to critically review the evidence to assess the use of perioperative β blockers in patients having non-cardiac surgery.

Methods

We searched Pubmed and Embase for randomised controlled trials investigating the use of β blockers in non-cardiac surgery. We extracted data for 30-day all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, non-fatal myocardial infarction, non-fatal stroke, heart failure, and myocardial ischaemia, safety outcomes of perioperative bradycardia, hypotension, and bronchospasm.

Findings

33 trials included 12 306 patients. β blockers were not associated with any significant reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, or heart failure, but were associated with a decrease (odds ratio [OR] 0·65, 95% CI 0·54—0·79) in non-fatal myocardial infarction (number needed to treat [NNT] 63) and decrease (OR 0·36, 0·26—0·50) in myocardial ischaemia (NNT 16) at the expense of an increase (OR 2·01, 1·27—3·68) in non-fatal strokes (number needed to harm [NNH] 293). The beneficial effects were driven mainly by trials with high risk of bias. For the safety outcomes, β blockers were associated with a high risk of perioperative bradycardia requiring treatment (NNH 22), and perioperative hypotension requiring treatment (NNH 17). We recorded no increased risk of bronchospasm.

Interpretation

Evidence does not support the use of β-blocker therapy for the prevention of perioperative clinical outcomes in patients having non-cardiac surgery. The ACC/AHA guidelines committee should soften their advocacy for this intervention until conclusive evidence is available.