What Should You Know About Cardiac Complications After Having Orthopedic Surgery?

A recent study published in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery showed a connection between cardiac events and orthopedic surgeries, raising an alarm for some orthopedic patients. While the mechanics of this connection are still being studied, it's important for those preparing for surgery to be aware of the risks and to take precautions to minimize any potential post-surgery complications. Learn more about the relationship between myocardial injury and orthopedic surgeries, as well as some steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart problems after an orthopedic procedure.

What is the Connection Between Orthopedic Surgery and Cardiac Health?

This study tracked more than 3,000 orthopedic patients, 367 of whom suffered some sort of myocardial injury after their procedure. But while the overall 30-day post-op survival rate of orthopedic patients without cardiac injury was 99 percent, the survival rate of those who suffered a cardiac event was just barely over 90 percent. And unfortunately, many of these myocardial injuries were fairly symptom-free; if not for monitoring the levels of troponin in patients' blood, physicians may not even have learned of cardiac issues until after a patient's death. (Troponin is the hormone that is released whenever the heart suffers some sort of injury, and is often used to quickly diagnose a heart attack.)

How Can Orthopedic Patients Reduce Their Cardiac Risk?

While the connection between cardiac mortality and orthopedic procedures can seem scary, there are ways to reduce your risk of a post-op cardiac event and improve your overall heart health. Most of all, this research doesn't mean you should cancel the orthopedic procedure you have scheduled; it just means you may want to take a few precautions first. 

Researchers recommend that physicians monitor their patients' troponin levels post-op so that action can quickly be taken if these levels spike. This preventative monitoring can ensure that treatment begins before the heart muscle can be damaged. 

Many patients are prescribed blood thinners after an orthopedic surgery to prevent blood clots from forming in the legs or other extremities. These blood thinners can also be helpful when it comes to averting a heart attack; the thinner the blood, the more easily it can flow around a blockage in a central vein or artery. Talk to your surgeon to determine whether you're a good candidate for blood thinners and, if so, which one you should take. (Also be sure to tell your surgeon if you've taken any aspirin or aspirin-containing medications prior to surgery, as taking blood thinners and aspirin can lead to uncontrolled bleeding. 

To learn more about orthopedic surgery, contact an orthopedic surgeon in your area that can tell you the benefits and risks.