Regional versus general anesthesia in high-risk surgical patients: The need for a clinical trial
Regional anesthesia is often preferred over general anesthesia for patients with cardiovascular disease because of presumed decreased risk of perioperative myocardial ischemia. However, few studies have addressed this issue directly. To determine whether the type of anesthesia is independently associated with myocardial ischemia, records of 134 patients undergoing peripheral vascular grafting under general or regional anesthesia were examined. There were no significant differences preoperatively between groups in ASA class, age, sex, or prevalence of angina, diabetes, or hypertension. Twelve patients developed myocardial ischemia or infarction within 7 days of operation; 11 of these 12 patients had received regional anesthesia (p less than 0.015). The association between anesthetic approach and perioperative myocardial ischemia or infarction remained after adjustment for preoperative factors associated with ischemia or with type of anesthesia. General anesthesia does not appear to be associated with increased risk of myocardial ischemia, and stringent recommendations to avoid it in this population may be unfounded. A clinical trial is needed to define more clearly the risks and benefits of different types of anesthesia in high-risk patients.
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