Cardiac risk assessment is a critical component of vascular disease management before surgical intervention. The predictive risk reduction of a negative cardiac stress test result remains poorly defined. The objective of this study was to compare the incidence of postoperative cardiac events among patients with negative stress test results vs those who did not undergo testing.
We reviewed all patients who underwent elective open abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, suprainguinal bypass, endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR), carotid endarterectomy (CEA), and infrainguinal bypass within the Vascular Study Group of New England from 2003 to 2017. We excluded patients with positive stress test results (n = 3312) and studied two mutually exclusive groups: elective surgery patients with a negative stress test result and elective surgery patients with no stress test (total n = 26,910). The primary outcome was a composite of in-hospital postoperative cardiac events (dysrhythmia, heart attack, heart failure) or death.
A preoperative stress test was obtained in 66.3% of open repairs, 42.8% of suprainguinal bypasses, 37.1% of EVARs, 36.0% of CEAs, and 31.2% of infrainguinal bypasses. The proportion of patients receiving a preoperative stress test varied widely across centers, from 37.1% to 80.0%. The crude odds ratio of in-hospital postoperative cardiac event or death was 1.37 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.07-1.76) for open repair and 1.52 (CI, 1.13-2.03) for suprainguinal bypass, indicating that patients with negative stress test results before these procedures were 37% and 52% more likely to suffer a postoperative event or die compared with patients selected to proceed directly to surgery without testing. Conversely, the crude odds ratio was 0.92 (CI, 0.66-1.29) for EVAR, 0.92 (CI, 0.70-1.21) for CEA, and 1.13 (CI, 0.90-1.40) for infrainguinal bypass, indicating that patients undergoing these procedures had a similar likelihood of sustaining an event whether they had a negative stress test result or proceeded directly to surgery without a stress test.
The use of cardiac stress testing before vascular surgery varies widely throughout New England. Whereas patients are often appropriately selected to proceed directly to surgery, a negative preoperative stress test result should not assuage the concern for an adverse outcome as these patients retain a substantial likelihood of cardiac events, especially after large-magnitude procedures.

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