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Medical use of cocaine and perioperative morbidity following sinonasal surgery—a population study


Background — Topical cocaine is favoured by many surgeons for sinonasal surgery due to its superior vasoconstrictive and anesthetic properties. However, historical reports suggesting cocaine is associated with an increased risk of cardiac events have led many surgeons to turn to alternative topical medications. The objective of this study was to determine whether cocaine use during sinonasal surgery is associated with an increased risk of perioperative cardiac events and death.

Methods — We conducted a population-based analysis of patients undergoing sinonasal surgery from 2009–2016 using linked administrative healthcare data sets in Ontario, Canada. We compared patients treated at institutions that primarily use topical cocaine (exposed group) to those treated at institutions that do not use cocaine (unexposed group). Our primary outcome was a composite of major cardiac events or all-cause mortality within 48 hours of surgery. Due to low event rates, the outcome was compared using a Fisher’s exact test.

Results — Of 10,549 patients who were included in the study, 27.4% were treated at an institution that uses topical cocaine. The rate of the composite of perioperative major cardiac event or all-cause mortality within 48 hours of surgery in the exposed and unexposed groups was, ≤0.2% and 0 (p-value>0.05), respectively.

Conclusions — In this large real-world cohort of patients undergoing sinonasal surgery, there does not appear to be any significant increased risk of morbidity or mortality associated with cocaine use. These findings have important implications for surgeons performing this procedure.



MacNeil SD, Rotenberg B, Sowerby L, Allen B, Richard L, Shariff SZ. PLoS One. 2020; 15(7):e0236356. Epub 2020 Jul 30.

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