Does ambroxol confer a protective effect on the lungs in patients undergoing cardiac surgery or having lung resection?

Shaohua Wang, Dayu Huang, Qinyun Ma, Xiaofeng Chen
Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery 2014, 18 (6): 830-4
A best evidence topic in perioperative care was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was 'Does ambroxol confer a protective effect on the lung in patients undergoing cardiac surgery or having lung resection?' A total of 247 papers were found using the reported search, of which 7 represented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes and results of these papers were tabulated. Several studies indicate that for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who undergo cardiac surgery or upper abdominal surgery, perioperative ambroxol administration is associated with improved pulmonary function and reduced postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs). In patients with pulmonary lobectomy, large-dose ambroxol treatment (1000 mg/day for 3 days) is correlated with reduced PPCs (6 vs 19%, P = 0.02), decreased postoperative hospital stay (5.6 vs 8.1 days, P = 0.02) and lower postoperative cost (2499 vs 5254 €, P = 0.04) compared with low-dose ambroxol treatment. Ambroxol also has a protective effect on the lungs during extracorporeal bypass, ameliorating inflammatory reaction and oxygen stress and preserving pulmonary surfactant. However, there is no evidence for any advantage of reducing PPCs after extracorporeal circulation. We conclude that perioperative application of ambroxol, a versatile mucoactive drug, particularly in high doses, is associated with lower PPCs, especially in high-risk patients with fundamental lung disease such as COPD. Large doses of ambroxol are correlated with even lower PPCs after lung resection. We recommend that routine intravenous ambroxol should be used in large doses in high-risk patients in the perioperative period to reduce the risk of PPCs.

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