WEDNESDAY, May 6, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- A few hours of postoperative treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may help improve outcomes in patients who've had heart surgery, finds a new study.
CPAP is commonly used to treat sleep apnea.
The study, published in the May issue of Chest, included 232 cardiac surgery patients who received standard postoperative treatment -- including 10 minutes of CPAP every four hours -- and 236 patients who received prophylactic CPAP for at least six hours after surgery.
The German researchers found that patients who received the prophylactic CPAP showed significantly improved arterial oxygenation without altered heart rate or mean arterial blood pressure.
These patients also experienced fewer pulmonary complications -- including hypoxemia, pneumonia and reintubation rates -- as well as a lower rate of readmission to the intensive care unit, the study authors found.
The findings suggest that CPAP may be a useful tool to prevent postoperative pulmonary complications in patients recovering from cardiac surgery, the researchers concluded.
The Society of Thoracic Surgeons explains what patients can expect after heart surgery.