10/25/02 - Aspirin After Heart Surgery

For years, we've known that aspirin helps prevent heart disease by thinning your blood, but now another use for aspirin. A new study shows aspirin may also be helpful to heart patients, if taken after bypass surgery. In a study done at 70 medical centers in 17 countries, they found that taking an aspirin, within two days after bypass surgery, cut the death rate by more than 60 percent.
More than 600,000 Americans have coronary bypass surgery each year. Cardiologist Dr. Billy Hammond says, "It's obviously a major surgical procedure, but yes I would call it a standard procedure. Patients are discharged three to five days later. Dr. Hammond says an aspirin after heart surgery will cut patients risk of having any complications. "All of my patients will be on aspirin after surgery and should have been before to prevent the need for having surgery in the first place," he says.
His philosophy is similar to findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine. As part of a four year study, involving more than 5000 people, researchers found aspirin taken within 48 hours after surgery, cut the death rate considerably and reduced the risk of serious complications. "They had a 50 percent decrease in stroke, a 75 percent decrease in kidney failure, and a 50 percent bowel problems," Dr. Hammond says. For years, aspirin has been looked upon to treat and prevent heart disease because it thins blood and prevents clots. Some feared, if given after surgery, aspirin would cause internal bleeding. But Dr. Hammond says the study confirms, patients will benefit from taking aspirin. "We try to keep patients on aspirin to prevent heart attack and after a heart attack to prevent another and after surgery to reduce complications," Dr. Hammond says.
Dr. Hammond adds since the study's been done, it won't be long before taking an aspirin after heart surgery is considered a standard practice.