Receiving a flu shot before a heart bypass surgery may stop inflammation throughout the body and possibly lead to a healthier recovery, according to a preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.1

Thirty heart bypass patients were involved in the study at a hospital in Sudbury, Ontario. Only 15 patients were vaccinated against the flu before surgery, with the other patients receiving a placebo. Researchers tested blood levels of various substances linked to inflammation at 7 intervals, starting with the beginning of surgery and ending 48 hours after operation.1

The patients underwent a coronary bypass graft surgery, which is the most common heart surgery performed worldwide. The surgery is intended to relieve chest pain and reduce the risk of heart attack.1

The levels of 2 chemicals that promote inflammation were lower in patients who received the flu shot versus those who received the placebo. However, levels of a chemical that fights inflammation were higher among the vaccinated group.1

Last year, another study demonstrating benefits in patients with heart disease was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, where researchers analyzed patients with heart failure that received a flu shot. Flu vaccination helped reduce risk of all-cause death by 13% when patients received a flu shot less than once per year. Meanwhile, annual flu vaccination following a heart failure diagnosis was associated with a 19% reduction in both all-cause and cardiovascular deaths.2

In the current study, the researchers concluded that the flu vaccine’s impact on markers of inflammation was notable, but more research is needed to replicate the findings. The design of this trial did not allow researchers to assess how patients fared medically.1

  1. Flu shot may aid heart bypass recovery [news release]. Dallas, TX; November 11, 2019: American Heart Association website. Accessed November 13, 2019.
  2. Regular flu vaccines: helping patients with heart failure? Pharmacy Times website. Published December 11, 2018. Accessed November 13, 2019.