Perioperative cardiovascular medicine: 5 questions for 2018

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Release date: November 1, 2018
Expiration date: October 31, 2019
Estimated time of completion: 1 hour

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A MEDLINE search was performed from January 2017 to February 2018, and articles were selected for this update based on their significant influence on the practice of perioperative cardiovascular medicine.


  • Patients undergoing noncardiac surgery who have a history of percutaneous coronary intervention will benefit from continuing aspirin perioperatively if they are not at very high risk of bleeding.
  • Myocardial injury after noncardiac surgery is strongly associated with a risk of death, and the higher the troponin level, the higher the risk. Measuring troponin T before and after surgery may be beneficial in patients at high risk if the information leads to a change in management.
  • Perioperative hypotension can lead to end-organ dysfunction postoperatively. There is conflicting evidence whether the absolute or relative reduction in blood pressure is more predictive.
  • Perioperative risk of stroke is higher in patients with patent foramen ovale than in those without.
  • Many patients who recently had a stroke suffer recurrent stroke and major adverse cardiac events if they undergo emergency surgery.



A plethora of studies are under way in the field of perioperative medicine. As a result, evidence-based care of surgical patients is evolving at an exponential rate.

We performed a literature search and, using consensus, identified recent articles we believe will have a great impact on perioperative cardiovascular medicine. These articles report studies that were presented at national meetings in 2018, including the Perioperative Medicine Summit, Society of General Internal Medicine, and Society of Hospital Medicine. These articles are grouped under 5 questions that will help guide clinical practice in perioperative cardiovascular medicine.


The Perioperative Ischemic Evaluation 2 (POISE-2) trial1 found that giving aspirin before surgery and throughout the early postoperative period had no significant effect on the rate of a composite of death or nonfatal myocardial infarction; moreover, aspirin increased the risk of major bleeding. However, many experts felt uncomfortable stopping aspirin preoperatively in patients taking it for secondary prophylaxis, particularly patients with a coronary stent.

[Graham MM, Sessler DI, Parlow JL, et al. Aspirin in patients with previous percutaneous coronary intervention undergoing noncardiac surgery. Ann Intern Med 2018; 168(4):237–244.]

This post hoc subgroup analysis2 of POISE-2 evaluated the benefit and harm of perioperative aspirin in patients who had previously undergone percutaneous coronary intervention, more than 90% of whom had received a stent. Patients were age 45 or older with atherosclerotic heart disease or risk factors for it who had previously undergone percutaneous coronary intervention and were now undergoing noncardiac surgery.

Patients who had received a bare-metal stent within the previous 6 weeks or a drug-eluting stent within 12 months before surgery were excluded because guidelines at that time said to continue dual antiplatelet therapy for that long. Recommendations have since changed; the optimal duration for dual antiplatelet therapy with drug-eluting stents is now 6 months. Second-generation drug-eluting stents pose a lower risk of stent thrombosis and require a shorter duration of dual antiplatelet therapy than first-generation drug-eluting stents. Approximately 25% of the percutaneous coronary intervention subgroup had a drug-eluting stent, but the authors did not specify the type of drug-eluting stent.

The post hoc analysis2 included a subgroup of 234 of 4,998 patients receiving aspirin and 236 of 5,012 patients receiving placebo initiated within 4 hours before surgery and continued postoperatively. The primary outcome measured was the rate of death or nonfatal myocardial infarction within 30 days after surgery, and bleeding was a secondary outcome.

Findings. Although the overall POISE-2 study found no benefit from aspirin, in the subgroup who had previously undergone percutaneous coronary intervention, aspirin significantly reduced the risk of the primary outcome, which occurred in 6% vs 11.5% of the patients:

  • Absolute risk reduction 5.5% (95% confidence interval 0.4%–10.5%)
  • Hazard ratio 0.50 (0.26–0.95).

The reduction was primarily due to fewer myocardial infarctions:

  • Absolute risk reduction 5.9% (1.0%–10.8%)
  • Hazard ratio 0.44 (0.22–0.87).

The type of stent had no effect on the primary outcome, although this subgroup analysis had limited power. In the nonpercutaneous coronary intervention subgroup, there was no significant difference in outcomes between the aspirin and placebo groups. This subgroup analysis was underpowered to evaluate the effect of aspirin on the composite of major and life-threatening bleeding in patients with prior percutaneous coronary intervention, which was reported as “uncertain” due to wide confidence intervals (absolute risk increase 1.3%, 95% confidence interval –2.6% to 5.2%), but the increased risk of major or life-threatening bleeding with aspirin demonstrated in the overall POISE-2 study population likely applies:

  • Absolute risk increase 0.8% (0.1%–1.6%)
  • Hazard ratio 1.22 (1.01–1.48).

Limitations. This was a nonspecified subgroup analysis that was underpowered and had a relatively small sample size with few events.

Conclusion. In the absence of a very high bleeding risk, continuing aspirin perioperatively in patients with prior percutaneous coronary intervention undergoing noncardiac surgery is more likely to result in benefit than harm. This finding is in agreement with current recommendations from the American College Cardiology and American Heart Association (class I; level of evidence C).3


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