Quit Drinking Before Surgery

Many people discover that they feel better, drop some weight, and save money by reducing the amount of alcohol they consume.  Older adults may metabolize alcohol differently than they did when they were younger, and some medications can interact when drinking alcohol leading to an increased risk for falls or other accidents.  If you have surgery planned in the near future, you may also be advised to avoid alcohol prior to surgery and post-operatively. 

According to a recent McMaster Optimal Aging blog post, if you consume 3 or more drinks per day or 21 drinks per week, you are engaging in “risky drinking” before having surgery.  People who receive intensive approaches to help stop drinking before surgery can have a reduced risk of complications post-surgery and are also more likely to successfully quit drinking by the end of the program. 

Although globally the number of people who drink alcohol is declining, among people who do consume alcohol, the amount they drink is rising.  Excessive drinking is linked with many health problems including liver disease, damage to the pancreas, neurological problems, cancer and other chronic diseases and infections as well as intentional and unintentional injuries. 

People who consume multiple alcoholic beverages per day are also at risk for surgical complications including infection, bleeding or heart and lung problems.  Alcohol consumption can reduce heart and immune system function, prolong bleeding time and increase the body’s stress response which can all contribute to complications after surgery.   Quitting smoking is also advised before surgery to reduce the risk of complications and speed recovery. 

Health experts advise refraining from or limiting alcohol in the 2 to 8 weeks before surgery to reduce the risk of complications.  To learn more, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website.