CHICAGO -- Heart patients who are given widely used drugs called beta blockers before bypass surgery have slightly better survival rates and fewer complications, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.
Beta blockers, which slow the heart rate, have been shown in previous research to improve survival in heart patients undergoing other types of surgery.
The latest findings suggest that up to 1,000 lives could be saved each year by giving patients beta blockers before bypass surgery, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Qualit.
The researchers looked at 629,877 patients who underwent bypass surgery between 1996 and 1999 at 497 sites in the United States and Canada.
Those who were given beta blockers had lower death rates within 30 days of surgery than patients who did not get the drugs, 2.8 percent versus 3.4 percent. Beta blocker patients also were less likely to have complications such as additional surgery and strokes.