What You Should Know about Alcohol Before Surgery

One of the most commonly asked questions during our pre-op consultations is if our patients have to stop drinking alcohol before surgery. We strongly recommend that our patients stop drinking alcohol for a minimum of 2 days before surgery, but the longer the better. But why? It all comes down to how well you will clot and heal.

Alcohol and Surgery: A Bad Combination

Your body gets used to metabolizing alcohol when you drink even two days in a row. Alcohol dehydrogenase is an induceable liver enzyme, meaning the more alcohol you drink, the liver must make more of this enzyme. Alcohol is also at times a depressant, and then an irritant – it makes you relaxed, and then actually more anxious. Just think about it – how do you feel when you have a hangover? All of this has an effect on your body when called upon to metabolize anesthesia drugs.

Drinking Alcohol Before Anesthesia

During many cosmetic surgical procedures like tummy tucks and mommy makeovers, you’ll be placed under general anesthesia using a combination of powerful drugs.  Anesthesia drugs must also be metabolized by the liver Alcohol Before Surgeryduring and after surgery. Most anesthesia drugs are inhalation agents, narcotics, synthetic narcotics, and anxiolytics. Anesthesiologists dose patients with these drugs based on their state of health. They also presume that the patient’s metabolism will dispose of the drugs in a predictable way. This is where your drinking habits can affect your surgery.

When you drink alcohol before anesthesia, the alcohol can interfere with normal anesthetic drug metabolism.

This is a safety issue as drinking before surgery means your anesthesiologist will have a more difficult time estimating the correct doses needed for your comfort and safety.

Alcohol and Blood Clotting

When you are undergoing any surgical procedure, it’s important that your blood is able to clot normally so that you do not experience excessive bleeding on the operating table. Alcohol is a blood thinner and can affect your body’s ability to naturally clot blood, depending on the frequency and volume of alcohol that you drink.

What does that mean for you? If you have alcohol in your system, 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.

When Can I Drink Alcohol Before and After Surgery

I recommend to all of my patients that you stop drinking alcohol before surgery.  Ideally, you should top for at least one week prior. Let your system detox at least one week before a major surgery. You should also:

  • Stop smoking
  • Ensure your are hydrated prior to surgery day
  • Talk with your Dr. about your drinking habits if there is any question

Give your liver and kidneys a rest before your plastic surgery so your systems are prime to metabolize and get you through the anesthesia necessary to accomplish your surgery. You will have a smoother recovery, and get your central nervous system back to normal more quickly.

After surgery, alcohol should be strictly avoided while taking narcotics for pain after surgery.

Honesty is the Best Policy

If you do drink alcohol prior to your surgery, you absolutely must tell my team. The information could be potentially life saving allowing my anesthesiologist and myself to assess the risks and make the right decision to proceed with the surgery and correct dosages.