Statins may protect against death from aneurysm, Yale study finds

A study by Yale School of Medicine reveals that survival rates for patients with a thoracic aneurysm are significantly better, and complications are fewer, among patients who take statin cholesterol drugs than those who do not. The study appears in the American Journal of Cardiology.

An aneurysm is a swelling of an artery, and is a common cause of death. It’s usually asymptomatic, with death or a life-threatening complication such as rupture or dissection being the first manifestation. Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs that are widely used in patients with cardiovascular disease.

Assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery Ion S. Jovin, M.D., and colleagues studied 649 patients with thoracic aortic aneurysms: 147 were taking statins and 502 were not. In long-term follow-up 80% of those taking statins survived, compared with 67% percent of those not taking statins.  In addition, a smaller percentage of those taking statins suffered a rupture or dissection (splitting of the aorta), compared to those who were not taking statins.

“The intake of statins was associated with an improvement in long-term outcomes among these patients,” said co-author John Elefteriades, M.D., professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Aortic Institute at Yale-New Haven Hospital. “In addition to better survival, fewer patients taking statins required surgical intervention,” Elefteriades added.

Medical science has searched for decades for a medicine that could treat aneurysm disease, with little success. The current standard therapy is to keep blood pressure low to discourage rupture of the enlarged artery. Jovin said his research suggests that “statins could offer a significant protective effect to patients at risk of death or complications from aneurysm disease. However, the ultimate proof would be a randomized clinical trial.” Elefteriades adds, “We now have some arrows in our quiver of medicines to treat this disease.”

Other authors are Mona Duggal, Keita Ebisu, Hyung Paek, A. Dana Oprea, Maryann Tranquilli, John Rizzo, Redin Memet, Marina Feldman, James Dziura, and Cynthia A. Brandt of Yale.

This work was partly funded by the Yale Clinical and Translational Science Award grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health.