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Omega-3 fatty acids protect cardiac surgery patients

According to a report in the May 17 2005 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, patients given omega-3 fatty acids before and after coronary artery surgery saw beneficial results in maintaining positive heart rhythms not often associated with the procedure.

The report summarized the findings of Italian researchers, who found the chance for acceptable post-operative heart rhythms was increased by about half for those receiving omega-3 fatty acids in the study.

The study demonstrates significant protective effects of EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) omega-3 fatty acids, with researchers theorizing that the compounds may provide their benefits through positive rhythmic effects.

Researchers conducted their study on 160 men and women scheduled for coronary artery surgery. Seventy-nine patients received 2 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids consisting of both EPA and DHA for at least five days before their scheduled surgery. Following surgery, the patients received the same dose until their discharge from the hospital. A control group of 81 patients underwent the same heart procedure, receiving the usual care but without supplementation with the omega-3s.

The patients' heart rhythm was continuously monitored for four to five days after the surgery, with cardiologists reviewing the electrocardiographic data for any abnormal rhythms. Daily electrocardiograms were administered to the patients during their remaining hospitalization.

The findings were remarkable. Nearly 85% of the patients who received omega-3 supplementation maintained acceptable post- operative heart rhythms compared to only 67% for patients in the control group. Additionally, the group who received the supplementation spent fewer days in the hospital following their surgery.


Leonardo Calò MD, FESC, Leopoldo Bianconi MD, Furio Colivicchi MD, FESC, Filippo Lamberti MD, Maria Luisa Loricchio MD, Ermenegildo de Ruvo MD, Antonella Meo MD, Claudio Pandozi MD, FESC, Mario Staibano MD and Massimo Santini MD, FESC, FACC. N-3 Fatty Acids for the Prevention of Atrial Fibrillation After Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery, A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 45, Issue 10, 17 May 2005, Pages 1723-1728

Key concepts: omega-3 fatty acids, cardiovascular disease, coronary artery surgery