Initiating antiplatelets and statins after surgery can significantly prolong some patients’ lives even if they do not have high cholesterol, a new review published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery has shown.

For the review, researchers used data from the Vascular Quality Initiative, a division of the Society for Vascular Surgery. Patients who had carotid, lower extremity bypass, or abdominal aortic aneurysm surgeries were included; these patients were likely to have had coronary disease, diabetes, and/or hypertension. 

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Among study patients prescribed both medications, 82% of them were alive 5 years later vs. 67% of those who were prescribed neither drug. Among patients who were prescribed one of the medications, 77% of the antiplatelet group and 73% of the statin group were alive. Despite the patients’ comorbid conditions, they still fared better than patients who did not take statins. 

Dr. Randall DeMartino, the study’s lead author, from the Mayo Clinic, pointed out that only about 2/3 of the patients in the review actually received a statin and/or an antiplatelet medication post-surgery; over 30% of patients were left at a higher risk of a fatal vascular event. Specifically, Latinos and African Americans were less likely to receive medications post-surgery when compared to the whole population. Amputees, nursing home residents, dialysis patients, and those with congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were also less likely to receive medications. 

In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, statins exert a positive effect on vessel inflammation and plaque stabilization. Patients who have recently undergone vascular surgery and are not taking these medications should inquire if it is the right treatment for them, study authors concluded. 

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