Background: American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) guidelines on perioperative assessment recommend perioperative beta blockers for non-cardiac surgery, although results of some clinical trials seem not to support this recommendation. We aimed to critically review the evidence to assess the use of perioperative beta blockers in patients having non-cardiac surgery.
Methods: We searched Pubmed and Embase for randomised controlled trials investigating the use of beta blockers in non-cardiac surgery. We extracted data for 30-day all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, non-fatal myocardial infarction, non-fatal stroke, heart failure, and myocardial ischaemia, safety outcomes of perioperative bradycardia, hypotension, and bronchospasm.
Findings: 33 trials included 12 306 patients. beta blockers were not associated with any significant reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, or heart failure, but were associated with a decrease (odds ratio [OR] 0.65, 95% CI 0.54-0.79) in non-fatal myocardial infarction (number needed to treat [NNT] 63) and decrease (OR 0.36, 0.26-0.50) in myocardial ischaemia (NNT 16) at the expense of an increase (OR 2.01, 1.27-3.68) in non-fatal strokes (number needed to harm [NNH] 293). The beneficial effects were driven mainly by trials with high risk of bias. For the safety outcomes, beta blockers were associated with a high risk of perioperative bradycardia requiring treatment (NNH 22), and perioperative hypotension requiring treatment (NNH 17). We recorded no increased risk of bronchospasm.
Interpretation: Evidence does not support the use of beta-blocker therapy for the prevention of perioperative clinical outcomes in patients having non-cardiac surgery. The ACC/AHA guidelines committee should soften their advocacy for this intervention until conclusive evidence is available.