Patients with surgery wounds may soon be able to take certain cholesterol-lowering drugs to facilitate wound healing.

According to a new review article published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, the use of statins, a popular cholesterol-lowering drug, was shown to improve healing in 20 different studies. Statins were shown to lower inflammation, improve the strength of a healing wound and promote growth of blood vessels.  

Statins are traditionally used to lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides while raising levels of good cholesterol (HDL). But this study looks at how statins affect the inflammatory response in the body.

"Statins have become one of the most widely prescribed medications in the world," said Dr. Gerard Fitzmaurice, lead author of the review. "While they are typically used to manage high cholesterol levels, a number of researchers have been investigating the benefits of statins in other conditions, such as severe infections or following organ transplantation."

Only two of the studies analyzed were human studies and only one showed evidence that statins could reduce inflammation without affecting healing. In the other study, patients having a hernia surgery showed no beneficial effects from statin use.

"The caveat here is that the majority of this is animal research," Fitzmaurice said. "But a human randomized trial is now merited to properly answer the question. If statins are beneficial, it could be a big progression in wound management."

They found that overall, statins reduced recovery time from 19 days to 13 days and could result in smaller scars.

"Normal wound healing involves a series of phases that ultimately leads to a scar," he said. "Many things can affect this process and it's difficult to determine exactly how statins might improve wound healing, but it would appear that they influence a number of factors in the inflammatory response. Our analysis also shows that some statins are better at it than others."

Additionally, use of statins could lower the amount of chest infection wounds, particularly in people with other health issues. However, statins may have side effects that could cause serious health problems such as liver damage.

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