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Risk Of Heart Attack Not Increased By Laughing Gas

The use of nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, during surgery does not increase the risk of heart attack, according to a report in the journal Anesthesiology.

"It's been known for quite a while that laughing gas inactivates vitamin B12 and, by doing so, increases blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine," said lead author Peter Nagele, MD, assistant professor of anesthesiology and genetics. "That was thought to raise the risk of a heart attack during and after surgery, but we found no evidence of that in this study."

Nagele and his team surveyed 500 surgery patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis who had been diagnosed with conditions that put them at risk for heart attack.

All of the subjects had non-cardiac surgery and received nitrous oxide anesthesia. Half of the participants took intravenous vitamin B12 and folic acid, while the other half took no such supplements.

"There were no differences between the groups with regard to heart attack risk," Nagele observed. "The B vitamins kept homocysteine levels from rising, but that didn't influence heart attack risk."

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