(HealthDay News) — Statin use may lower mortality in the weeks and months after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, according to a study scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Anaesthesiology, held from May 30 to June 2 in Berlin.

The new study was based on data involving more than 16,000 British patients. All were at least 40 years old at the time they underwent CABG surgery, and the researchers tracked outcomes at 1 month and 6 months after the surgery. 

Apart from statins, many of the patients had been taking a broad range of other types of cardiovascular (CV) medications prior to the surgery. For example, nearly three-quarters were taking beta-blockers, more than 60% were taking angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and nearly 45% were taking calcium channel blockers.

However, after conducting five statistical analyses, the team found that only the use of statins was tied with a significant protective effect in reducing a patient’s postoperative mortality risk. This finding remained even after the researchers factored in each patient’s prior history of other chronic illnesses. Simvastatin was tied to the most significant drop in postoperative mortality risk (a 77% decline).

The study was led by Robert Sanders, PhD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. His team of U.S. and U.K. researchers noted that the vast majority of patients included in the analysis — roughly 85% — were already routinely taking a statin before their heart surgery. 

“The unknown is why the other 15% were not on statins,” Sanders told HealthDay. Some may have had an intolerance to the medications or adverse effects, while others might simply not have been offered the cholesterol drug by their physicians, he noted.

Find more information on Euroanaesthesia 2015.