The perioperative care of patients with rheumatic diseases is hampered by a lack of evidence-based recommendations. Rheumatologists are called upon to 'clear' their patients for surgery, yet the evidence upon which to base decisions is fractionated and inconsistent. We have systematically reviewed the current literature and developed suggestions for three key areas that require particular deliberations in patients with rheumatic diseases scheduled for surgery: the management of cardiovascular risk, use of immunosuppressive drugs, and states of altered coagulation. For patients with rheumatic diseases associated with increased cardiovascular risk, such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, we suggest following the American College of Cardiologyĝ€"American Heart Association guidelines using the underlying disease as a risk modifier. Most evidence suggests a neutral effect of conventional DMARDs in the perioperative period, with no need to discontinue them prior to surgery. Conversely, we suggest minimizing perioperative steroid use and unnecessary 'steroid preps'. The potential benefits of discontinuing biologic drugs in the perioperative setting needs to be carefully balanced with the risks associated with a disease flare. We discuss the American College of Chest Physicians guidelines, which classify individuals with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome as high-risk patients for perioperative thrombosis who are likely to require bridging therapy in most perioperative settings.
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