To Fight Pneumonia Risk After Cardiac Surgery, Data Could Be the Weapon

A new risk model developed by Michigan hospitals could help patients avoid a common post-surgical complication.

7:00 AM

Author | Shantell M. Kirkendoll

Pneumonia is the most prevalent infection after open-heart surgery, leading to longer hospital stays and lower odds of survival. 

MORE FROM THE LAB: Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

But a new analysis of data from thousands of patients who had coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery at Michigan hospitals revealed ways people can prepare their bodies to reduce the risk of postoperative pneumonia — a complication that occurred in 3.3 percent of patients in the observational review.

In Annals of Thoracic Surgery, investigators identify a list of 17 patient characteristics — age, race, smoking habits and white blood cell count among them — associated with developing pneumonia after cardiac surgery.

Cardiac surgeons in Michigan and investigators at the University of Michigan Health System developed the list based on the experiences of 16,084 patients. These patients underwent cardiac surgery at 33 hospitals sharing data with the Michigan Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Quality Collaborative.

The group's findings have significant potential, says senior study author Donald Likosky, Ph.D., an associate professor of cardiac surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"This work reflects an evolution of our understanding of postoperative infections," Likosky says, "and can go a long way to preserve resources and help patients recover from one of the country's most common cardiac procedures."

Co-authors include cardiac surgeons at the Henry Ford Health System, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital and Bronson Methodist Hospital.

Study co-author Henry Ford Health System cardio-thoracic surgeon Gaetano Paone, M.D., right, treats a patient at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Credit: Henry Ford Health System

 

Proactive measures

A person's health and habits are often good predictors of recovery.

SEE ALSO: Study Shows How Pneumonia-Causing Superbug Invades

The new preoperative risk model, then, is designed to guide clinical decision-making and physician-patient conversations about regimens to pursue before an operation so patients can avoid pneumonia later.

Such preventive strategies "may reduce a patient's risk for postoperative pneumonia," says Raymond Strobel, lead study author and a third-year medical student at the University of Michigan.

That's why it is crucial for doctors to know the study's predictors that could signal trouble.

The key culprits were admission for heart surgery via the emergency room; a history of lung problems; a long hospital stay before surgery; and low ejection fraction, a measurement of how much blood is pumped out by the heart with each beat.

Another well-recognized risk factor for postoperative pneumonia is smoking, although quitting — even just a month before surgery — can help.

Elevated white blood cell count, called leukocytosis, was also a significant predictor.

"Patients presenting with an elevated white blood cell count before their operation may be mounting an immune response against a pathogen or other challenge, and CABG significantly increases their odds of postoperative pneumonia," says study co-author Gaetano Paone, M.D., M.H.S.A., a cardiac surgeon at the Henry Ford Health System.

It may be in a patient's best interest to delay surgery, if possible, to investigate an elevated white cell count, the authors say.

In any case, the study underscores a continued need for vigilance both before and after cardiac surgery.

The data on preoperative risk factors were first presented at the 62nd annual meeting of the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funded the project, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan supports the state quality collaborative.


More Articles About: Industry DX Cardiac Rehabilitation Cardiac Surgery Cardiovascular: Treatment & Surgery
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

This article is from the Health Lab digital publication.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

MichMedmedia@med.umich.edu

734-764-2220

Newsletter

Get a weekly digest of medical research and innovation, straight to your inbox.

Subscribe
Featured News & Stories tavr stroke blue cardiovascular red inside blue background
Health Lab
Hospitals without highest stroke care designation may miss them after heart procedure
Using stroke as a measure of quality after TAVR could put stroke centers at a disadvantage, the study suggests
VAD heart device cooler red and teal
Health Lab
Medicare policy change could increase inequity in heart transplant access, study finds
Patients seen at transplant centers had almost 80% higher odds to receive “bridge-to-transplant” designation
Vein-Red-Blood-Cells-Plaque.jpg
Health Lab
Massive international study uncovers genes involved in heart disease
Scientists link dozens of new genome sites to coronary artery disease risk and pioneer a powerful method for illuminating the biological roots of common disease.
senior walker silhouette playground children
Health Lab
“Sandwich generation” study shows challenges of caring for both kids and aging parents
Millions of American caregivers are part of a sandwich generation caring for aging parents and children. A new study shows the stress they’re under.
teen hunter orange hat vest
Health Lab
Tailored approach makes inroads in rural firearm safe storage
Rural gun-owning families responded favorably to a customized intervention to increase safe storage of rifles, handguns and other firearms in homes with children.
medical center childrens sign hospital
Health Lab
Firearm injuries in kids leave lasting mental scars, study finds
New mental health diagnoses are common after a firearm injury or a motor vehicle crash injury in children and teens, but more common in those who have been shot.