Predictors of cardiac events after major vascular surgery: Role of clinical characteristics, dobutamine echocardiography, and beta-blocker therapy

JAMA. 2001 Apr 11;285(14):1865-73. doi: 10.1001/jama.285.14.1865.


Context: Patients who undergo major vascular surgery are at increased risk of perioperative cardiac complications. High-risk patients can be identified by clinical factors and noninvasive cardiac testing, such as dobutamine stress echocardiography (DSE); however, such noninvasive imaging techniques carry significant disadvantages. A recent study found that perioperative beta-blocker therapy reduces complication rates in high-risk individuals.

Objective: To examine the relationship of clinical characteristics, DSE results, beta-blocker therapy, and cardiac events in patients undergoing major vascular surgery.

Design and setting: Cohort study conducted in 1996-1999 in the following 8 centers: Erasmus Medical Centre and Sint Clara Ziekenhuis, Rotterdam, Twee Steden Ziekenhuis, Tilburg, Academisch Ziekenhuis Utrecht, Utrecht, and Medisch Centrum Alkmaar, Alkmaar, the Netherlands; Ziekenhuis Middelheim, Antwerp, Belgium; and San Gerardo Hospital, Monza, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.

Patients: A total of 1351 consecutive patients scheduled for major vascular surgery; DSE was performed in 1097 patients (81%), and 360 (27%) received beta-blocker therapy.

Main outcome measure: Cardiac death or nonfatal myocardial infarction within 30 days after surgery, compared by clinical characteristics, DSE results, and beta-blocker use.

Results: Forty-five patients (3.3%) had perioperative cardiac death or nonfatal myocardial infarction. In multivariable analysis, important clinical determinants of adverse outcome were age 70 years or older; current or prior angina pectoris; and prior myocardial infarction, heart failure, or cerebrovascular accident. Eighty-three percent of patients had less than 3 clinical risk factors. Among this subgroup, patients receiving beta-blockers had a lower risk of cardiac complications (0.8% [2/263]) than those not receiving beta-blockers (2.3% [20/855]), and DSE had minimal additional prognostic value. In patients with 3 or more risk factors (17%), DSE provided additional prognostic information, for patients without stress-induced ischemia had much lower risk of events than those with stress-induced ischemia (among those receiving beta-blockers, 2.0% [1/50] vs 10.6% [5/47]). Moreover, patients with limited stress-induced ischemia (1-4 segments) experienced fewer cardiac events (2.8% [1/36]) than those with more extensive ischemia (>/=5 segments, 36% [4/11]).

Conclusion: The additional predictive value of DSE is limited in clinically low-risk patients receiving beta-blockers. In clinical practice, DSE may be avoided in a large number of patients who can proceed safely for surgery without delay. In clinically intermediate- and high-risk patients receiving beta-blockers, DSE may help identify those in whom surgery can still be performed and those in whom cardiac revascularization should be considered.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Dobutamine
  • Exercise Test*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Myocardial Infarction / prevention & control
  • Myocardial Ischemia / diagnostic imaging
  • Myocardial Ischemia / etiology*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / prevention & control*
  • Postoperative Complications* / mortality
  • Postoperative Complications* / prevention & control
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures*


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Dobutamine