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Flu Vaccine May Help Heart Bypass Patients Heal Faster

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The preliminary results of an ongoing study revealed that patients who receive a flu shot before undergoing heart bypass surgery may recover faster.

In a hospital in Sudbury, Ontario, researchers recently observed 30 patients. Fifteen patients received a flu vaccine before undergoing coronary bypass graft surgery, the rest received a placebo. Next, investigators tested blood levels of substances connected to inflammation at seven intervals, beginning with the commencement of surgery and ending 48 hours after the procedure.

Among the vaccinated group, researchers observed that levels of a chemical that fights inflammation were higher. So far, other researchers have struggled to find a reliable preventive treatment that can reduce inflammation after surgery. Thus, the results of this study are compelling, even though the patient cohort was small.

“Vaccines work by revving up the body's infection-fighting machinery," Jennifer Robinson, director of the Preventive Intervention Center at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, told the American Heart Association. “The influenza vaccine had striking protective physiologic effects that could have important implications for reducing post-operative complications." (Read more about the results of this study in future issues of Clinical Cardiology Alert.)

Despite the flu vaccine’s efficacy, myths persist. An article in the November issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention concerns the ethical obligations of receiving a flu vaccine to boost herd immunity. Still, it is important for healthcare leaders to create clear, equitable policies about flu vaccines for employees.

The November issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention also includes an article about one hospital that paid $74,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by an employee who claimed a religious exemption to vaccines. An article in the November issue of Hospital Employee Health builds on this news, outlining techniques for creating proper vaccine polices for healthcare workers.

The upcoming January issue of ED Management will include a report about a recent presentation from the Institute for Healthcare Optimization regarding approaches for managing capacity in the ED during the upcoming flu season.