A Doc Explains Why You Can’t Have Alcohol Before Surgery

You can’t have alcohol before surgery, and there’s a good reason why.

If you’re the type to revel in the health benefits of whiskey or enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, that’s wonderful, but if you’re heading into surgery you need to put down the booze and follow your doctor’s orders. You definitely CAN’T have alcohol before surgery, and there’s a good reason why.

It is recommended that patients stop drinking alcohol for one week prior to surgery, but certainly within 24 hours prior,” shares Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, General and Endovascular Surgeon, NYC Surgical Associates. “Drinking affects cardiac function, immune capacity, blood clot formation and stress responses. People who drink only two or three drinks a day are more likely to suffer complications and infection after surgery. Even short periods of binge drinking, perhaps even a single session, seem to reduce immune system efficiency for a time.”

It doesn’t end with just reduced immune system function, though. Consuming alcohol before surgery can seriously impact your body’s ability to properly clot, meaning once your surgery is over, your wounds may not close or heal properly, which can lead to a host of very serious, very long term problems, even if you’re just in for a routine butt tuck surgery or a totally cosmetic set of breast implants.

“One major complication would be bleeding after surgery due to the blood’s inability to clot, making incisions and controlling blood loss during surgery particularly difficult. Alcohol can also cause vasodilation, sending more blood into the skin vessels while robbing blood volume from vital organs and causing you to feel light-headed and nauseous.”

Surgeons are also fearful you’ll end up vomiting all over the operating room.

“Alcohol increases sensitivity to stimuli, leaving you with an increased tendency to vomit. If anesthesia is administered, it can also cause you to feel nauseous and lower your vomiting threshold as well. Both alcohol and anesthesia must be metabolized by the liver, so drinking alcohol before surgery can also interfere with normal anesthetic drug metabolism.”

Dr. Hollingsworth says that even light and moderate drinkers should steer clear of all alcohol before surgery for at least the 24 hours leading up to your arrival at the hospital or doctor’s office, because alcohol can interfere with the safety of the anesthesia and the success of the procedure itself, but ideally, the minute you book a surgery it’s time to start cutting back on your booze intake.

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Bryce Gruber is a Manhattanite mom who can be found jet-setting off to every corner of the globe. She loves exotic places, planes with WiFi, summer clothes, & Sucre brown butter truffles. Bryce's aim is to do to luxury what Elton John did to being gay. Follow her on twitter @brycegruber