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Aug 15, 2014 11:07 AM EDT

Low Vitamin D Levels May Increase Risk of Death, Serious Complications After Noncardiac Surgery

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People with low vitamin D levels have an increased risk of death and serious complications after noncardiac surgery, according to a recent study.

"Vitamin D concentrations were associated with a composite of in-hospital death, serious infections, and serious cardiovascular events," researchers said in the study.

For the study, researchers analyzed the relationship between vitamin D level and surgical outcomes of nearly 3,500 patients who underwent operations other than heart surgery between 2005 and 2011. Only patients who had available data on vitamin D levels around the time of surgery -- from three months before to one month afterward -- were included in the study.

Nearly 20 percent of the study participants had vitamin D deficiency.

"Higher vitamin D concentrations were associated with decreased odds of in-hospital mortality/morbidity," the researchers write.

For each 5 ng/mL increase in 25-hydroxyvitamin D level, the combined risk of death, cardiovascular events, or serious infections decreased by 7 percent.

Patients at the lowest level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D were at highest risk of death or serious complications. Those with higher vitamin D levels about half the risk as those in the lowest group. The association with low vitamin D was statistically significant only for cardiovascular complications, although there were "strong trends" for mortality and infections.

"Vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem," researcher Alparslan Turan said in a statement.

The high rates of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency in the surgical patients studied are consistent with previous findings in the general population. In recent years, studies have suggested that vitamin D levels may affect a wide range of health outcomes.

However, researchers said the high rates of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency in the surgical patients studied are consistent with previous findings in the general population. In recent years, studies have suggested that vitamin D levels may affect a wide range of health outcomes.

The findings were recently published in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.

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