International RCT-based guidelines for use of preoperative stress testing and perioperative beta-blockers and statins in non-cardiac surgery

Int J Cardiol. 2014 Mar 1;172(1):138-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.12.309. Epub 2014 Jan 15.


Background: Cardiologists frequently advise on perioperative care for non-cardiac surgery and require guidance based on randomised controlled trials that are not discredited by misconduct or misreporting. Regional political bodies currently do not provide this. We therefore examined the credible randomised controlled trial (RCT) evidence on key cardiac perioperative questions which currently have 14 recommendations.

Methods: Three aspects of perioperative measures were considered: perioperative statins, preoperative stress-testing and perioperative beta-blockade. One author searched PubMed for RCTs considering these topics. All authors independently assessed the RCTs and then collaboratively composed guidelines.

Results: Perioperative statin therapy has been examined by three RCTs, DECREASE III and IV, which are discredited and a third containing serious inconsistencies undermining its validity. Preoperative stress testing has been examined by two RCTs: one discredited trial, DECREASE II, and a second which found no benefit. Perioperative beta-blockade has been examined by eleven RCTs, two of which are discredited. The nine remaining trials together suggest that perioperative beta-blockade increases mortality.

Conclusions: When the non-credible RCTs are omitted, the evidence base on these three subjects is much smaller than previously believed: 14 recommendations can be replaced by 3. Current guideline arrangements collectively paralyse the numerous signatories from making urgent amendments after initial publication, even when important new information comes to light. Clinicians simply have to wait for the routine five-year expiry. We present a concise scientifically based guideline and commit to updating it responsibly.

Keywords: Beta-blocker; Guideline; Perioperative care; Statin; Stress echocardiography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiology / standards
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Echocardiography, Stress / standards*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Internationality
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Preoperative Care / standards*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Assessment / standards
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors