Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on its own does not raise cardiovascular complications or death risk after surgery, according to research findings. The study also found no evidence that rheumatoid arthritis is associated with a higher risk of complications related to inflammation.
Dr. Alparslan Turan and the research team wrote, “We expected to find an increased risk of cardiovascular, thromboembolic, and microcirculatory complications in RA patients. Our results did not support this association.”
The researchers used a large hospital database where they identified two groups of patients who underwent surgery. Each group consisted of 67,000 patients. One group had rheumatoid arthritis and the other did not. The researchers compared rates of cardiovascular complications along with thromboembolic (blood clot-related) complications, microcirculatory complications, wound-healing problems, or death in hospital.
The results showed no significant difference, as cardiovascular complications occurred in 1.64 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients and 1.50 in non-RA patients. Rates of hospital death were 1.44 percent for RA patients and 1.28 percent for non-RA.
Generally, patients with rheumatoid arthritis have higher overall mortality rates due to an increased risk of cardiovascular events. Those associations raised concerns that their risk may come as a result of postoperative complications.
During surgery, the pro-inflammatory response is triggered, which could contribute to postoperative risks. But the new study found little to no association with a higher risk of cardiovascular complications after surgery in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Dr. Turan concluded, “This result is surprising since RA provokes substantial persistent inflammation, which is believed to cause premature development of atherosclerosis, along with venous and arterial thromboembolism.”
Complications from rheumatoid arthritis surgery
In some cases, surgery may be used as a treatment method for rheumatoid arthritis to relieve pain or to improve mobility. Surgery is also utilized when there is structural damage to the joint and surrounding joints, and even though surgery can be beneficial it does increase the risk of complications.
To prepare for rheumatoid arthritis surgery, your doctor may take you off your medications days prior to avoid infection. You may have to stop taking blood thinners, you may have to practice walking on crutches or with a cane, and you may need to have blood drawn in case it is needed during surgery.
To lower your risk of complications during surgery, treat any gum disease you may have, ensure you do not have a urinary tract infection, eat a healthy diet, exercise as it speeds up recovery, stop smoking, lose extra weight if you are overweight, and prepare your home to ensure ease of access.
After surgery, you can expect to be in the hospital for a few days, you will feel sore, you will have to stick with a physical therapy plan, and you will have a follow-up with your surgeon.
Some of the complications that can arise from rheumatoid arthritis are as follows:
- The skin around the surgery site may appear red and hot
- The wound may drain and be foul-smelling
- You may experience a fever
- You may have chest pains or shortness of breath
- You may have unusual swelling
Be sure to speak to your doctor about any changes you may notice. Although some of them may be normal, others may need a medical intervention and immediate treatment.