The European Society of Cardiology guidelines on cardiovascular assessment and management of patients undergoing noncardiac surgery have seen extensive revision since the 2014 version.
They still have the same aim – to prevent surgery-related bleeding complications, perioperative myocardial infarction/injury (PMI), stent thrombosis, acute heart failure, arrhythmias, pulmonary embolism, ischemic stroke, and cardiovascular (CV) death.
Cochairpersons Sigrun Halvorsen, MD, PhD, and Julinda Mehilli, MD, presented highlights from the guidelines at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology and the document was simultaneously published online in the European Heart Journal.
The document classifies noncardiac surgery into three levels of 30-day risk of CV death, MI, or stroke. Low (< 1%) risk includes eye or thyroid surgery; intermediate (1%-5%) risk includes knee or hip replacement or renal transplant; and high (> 5%) risk includes aortic aneurysm, lung transplant, or pancreatic or bladder cancer surgery (see more examples below).
It classifies patients as low risk if they are younger than 65 without CV disease or CV risk factors (smoking, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, family history); intermediate risk if they are 65 or older or have CV risk factors; and high risk if they have CVD.
In an interview, Dr. Halvorsen, professor in cardiology, University of Oslo, zeroed in on three important revisions:
First, recommendations for preoperative ECG and biomarkers are more specific, he noted.
The guidelines advise that before intermediate- or high-risk noncardiac surgery, in patients who have known CVD, CV risk factors (including age 65 or older), or symptoms suggestive of CVD:
- It is recommended to obtain a preoperative 12-lead ECG (class I).
- It is recommended to measure high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T (hs-cTn T) or high-sensitivity cardiac troponin I (hs-cTn I). It is also recommended to measure these biomarkers at 24 hours and 48 hours post surgery (class I).
- It should be considered to measure B-type natriuretic peptide or N-terminal of the prohormone BNP (NT-proBNP).
However, for low-risk patients undergoing low- and intermediate-risk noncardiac surgery, it is not recommended to routinely obtain preoperative ECG, hs-cTn T/I, or BNP/NT-proBNP concentrations (class III).
Troponins have a stronger class I recommendation, compared with the IIA recommendation for BNP, because they are useful for preoperative risk stratification and for diagnosis of PMI, Dr. Halvorsen explained. “Patients receive painkillers after surgery and may have no pain,” she noted, but they may have PMI, which has a bad prognosis.
Second, the guidelines recommend that “all patients should stop smoking 4 weeks before noncardiac surgery [class I],” she noted. Clinicians should also “measure hemoglobin, and if the patient is anemic, treat the anemia.”
Third, the sections on antithrombotic treatment have been significantly revised. “Bridging – stopping an oral antithrombotic drug and switching to a subcutaneous or IV drug – has been common,” Dr. Halvorsen said, “but recently we have new evidence that in most cases that increases the risk of bleeding.”
“We are [now] much more restrictive with respect to bridging” with unfractionated heparin or low-molecular-weight heparin, she said. “We recommend against bridging in patients with low to moderate thrombotic risk,” and bridging should only be considered in patients with mechanical prosthetic heart valves or with very high thrombotic risk.