Surgery and anaesthesia could increase stroke risk

If you are at risk for stroke and scheduled for surgery, you may want to talk your doctor about a new study from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Results from the study show that people who have surgery and anaesthesia are at increased risk for ischemic stroke (stroke caused by an obstruction to the blood supply). The U.S. study is the first to evaluate the risk factor of surgery/anaesthesia while accounting for other known stroke risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking.

Medical records of 1,455 Rochester residents who had ischemic stroke were compared to an equal number of patients without stroke. The study found that surgery/anaesthesia is an independent risk factor for the development of ischemic stroke within the 30 days following surgery. The relative risk was elevated for both higher risk procedures (such as heart, vascular or brain surgery) as well as for general, lower risk surgeries.

The study’s author, Dr. Gilbert Wong, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, says this new information, published in the February issue of Anaesthesiology, may be important for doctors and patients to consider when weighing all the potentl risks and benefits of elective surgery. Keep in mind, though, that Dr. Wong also notes that the overall rates of stroke following surgery are very low (about five percent for higher risk procedures and less than one percent for other procedures). In short, the study’s findings should not deter you from surgery that is medically necessary.