Early Statin Use After Stroke May Protect Against Infection

Jennifer G. Allen
Published Online: Friday, July 1st, 2016
Patients hospitalized after stroke are at less risk for infection when they’re on statin therapy, the results of a recent study suggest.
Researchers from Washington State University analyzed the medical records of 1612 patients hospitalized following ischemic stroke and observed that those who received statin therapy either upon arrival or early in their stay showed a 58% lower incidence of infection than those without early statin use.
Broken down further, the data showed that only 20% of stroke patients on statin therapy at the outset of their stay developed a hospital-acquired infection, compared with 41% of patients who didn’t take statins. Significant infection risk reductions were seen for patients with nasogastric tubes and those with dysphagia, but not those with endotracheal intubation.
The researchers credited the infection risk reduction to statins’ immunity boosting and anti-inflammatory properties, although they cautioned that more studies are needed to confirm their findings. Nevertheless, they further emphasized the importance of timing in a drug’s ability to lower infection risk, given that the benefits weren’t observed when statins were introduced after an infection had already set in.
“We’ve been able to establish that if statins are given early, before infection can occur, the risk of infection is substantially reduced,” said lead author Douglas Week in a press release about the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases.
Statins are traditionally indicated to reduce cholesterol levels and prevent adverse cardiovascular events. Previous studies have also shown that taking statins following a stroke can reduce the risk of recurrence, while others have linked statins to improved outcomes for patients with non-severe infections.
Despite the benefits of high cholesterol treatment, the CDC has reported that nearly half of patients are nonadherent.
Nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in retail clinics are surely seeing some of the 78.1 million Americans who are taking statins or eligible for starting them, based on American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association guidelines.
When managing patients on statin therapy, clinicians should encourage patients to remain adherent to their regimen in order to both lower their cholesterol and avoid infection should they experience a stroke.
Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States, and about 800,000 individuals experience strokes each year. One American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes.

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