Giving people statins before an operation could cut their risk of dying or suffering complications, research suggests.
The cholesterol-busting drugs are normally only prescribed for patients with heart conditions or who are at risk of heart attacks or stroke.
But a new study suggests that administering statins to people undergoing operations unrelated to their heart may have a powerful effect.
The research on more than 6,000 people found that giving statins before operations cut the chance of cardiovascular complications by 17%.
Statins were also linked to a 43% lower chance of dying from any cause and a 52% reduced risk of dying from a heart-related problem within 30 days of the operation.
The study, which involved patients from eight different countries, was presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in London.
Dr Philip Devereux, from McMaster University in Canada, said: "Among the 200 million adults worldwide who undergo non-cardiac surgery annually, more than ten million will suffer a cardiovascular complication in the first 30 days after surgery.
"Despite the magnitude of the problem, no intervention has been shown to be both safe and effective in the prevention of cardiovascular complications such as heart attack, death due to cardiac causes and stroke.
"Our finding of reduced major cardiac complications and all-cause mortality after non-cardiac surgery in patients taking statins suggests that there may be a new indication for this drug."
Dr Devereux said more work was needed and the findings did not add up to a formal recommendation to prescribe statins before surgery.