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December 2001

Preoperative Cardiac Risk Assessment: An Updated Approach

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Harbor UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, Calif.

Arch Surg. 2001;136(12):1370-1376. doi:10.1001/archsurg.136.12.1370

Hypothesis  We provide an updated algorithm for approaching preoperative cardiac risk assessment in patients undergoing noncardiac surgery.

Design  A National Library of Medicine PubMed literature search was performed dating back to 1985 using the keywords "preoperative cardiac risk for noncardiac surgery." This search was restricted to English language articles involving human subjects.

Results  Patient-specific and operation-specific cardiac risk can be determined clinically. Patients with major cardiac risk factors have a high incidence of perioperative cardiac complications, whereas the risk is less than 3% for low-risk patients. For intermediate-risk patients, no prospective randomized studies demonstrate the efficacy of noninvasive stress testing (dipyridamole thallium or dobutamine echocardiography) or of subsequent coronary revascularization for preventing perioperative cardiac complications. Recent studies demonstrate that perioperative β-blockade significantly reduces the adverse cardiac event rate in intermediate-risk patients.

Conclusions  Most patients with high cardiac risk should proceed with coronary angiography. Patients with low cardiac risk can proceed to surgery without noninvasive testing. For intermediate-risk patients, consideration may be given to further stress testing prior to surgery; however, in most patients, proceeding to surgery with perioperative β-blockade is an acceptable alternative.