Features February 2009 Issue

Beta Blockers May Aid COPD Patients After Vascular Surgery

A recent study finds the anti-hypertension drugs don’t induce respiratory problems as previously feared.

If you suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chances are you have arterial health problems, too, which could lead to vascular surgery. But recent research suggests that beta blockers—hypertension medications that slow the heart and open up blood vessels—may help lower the mortality rate for COPD patients after an operation on their vascular system. The study of more than 3,000 COPD patients who underwent vascular surgery, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, was the first to examine the effects of beta blockers on surgical patients with COPD. The results were seen as especially encouraging, since the feeling for a long time had been that beta blockers might be dangerous for COPD patients recovering from a surgery. "Doctors had been primarily worried that beta blockers would induce wheezing and bronchospasm in COPD patients," says Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Adam Grasso, MD. "However, such patients are rarely affected by reactive airway disease or bronchospasm. It makes sense that beta blockers are more likely to be detrimental in people with COPD."

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