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Blood Pressure Cuffs Could Reduce Heart Damage When Used Before Surgery

Update Date: Aug 16, 2013 02:32 PM EDT

With any type of invasive surgery, the risk of complications always exists. Doctors and researchers have adamantly worked hard to find ways of lowering one's risk as well as taking preventative and precautionary measures before surgeries. In a new study, researchers found that a blood pressure cuff might be effective in reducing the risk of heart damage for patients who receive heart surgery. The study reports that using the cuff right before surgery could be a new and cost-effective way of preventing heart damage.

In this study, the researchers looked at the blood pressure cuff technique called "remote ischemic preconditioning." This method involves using the cuff to momentarily cut off blood supply in a region that is far away from the heart, such as the arm. The blood supply is then restored when the blood pressure cuff is removed. For this study, the research team recruited 162 patients who had remote ischemic preconditioning. They all needed heart bypass surgery. The researchers used a blood pressure cuff three times on the upper left arm. They restricted blood flow for five minutes followed by another five minutes of free blood flow and repeated. The researchers then measured the patients' blood for troponin 1, which is a protein that informs the researchers if there was any heart muscle damage post surgery. Higher levels of this protein would indicate more damage. The data was then compared to 167 people who did not have the blood pressure cuff procedure done on them before surgery.

The researchers found that within three days post surgery, the troponin levels for the group of patients who received the remote ischemic conditioning were 17 percent lower in comparison to patients who did not have the procedure. The patients were then followed up for four years. They reported that one-year post surgery, the patients who had the blood pressure cuff routine were 73 percent less likely to have died from any type of causes and 86 percent less likely to have died from heart-related conditions, such as a heart attack or stroke.

"The results of our study are very encouraging that remote ischemic preconditioning not only reduces heart muscle injury but also improves long-term health outcomes for heart bypass patients, and we hope that these benefits will be confirmed in larger prospective studies which are currently taking place," study co-leader Professor Gerd Heusch, of the University School of Medicine Essen in Germany, said according to HealthDay.

The study was published in The Lancet

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