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When it comes to post op aftercare, patients frequently ask for guidance on resuming everyday activities. Whilst most patients have no hesitation in asking how soon they might pick up exercise, sports or intimate relations, we find many people are more hesitant to ask questions relating to when they should stop drinking alcohol prior to surgery and how soon they might enjoy alcohol post procedure. This guide aims to shed some light on questions such as ‘how long before surgery should I stop drinking alcohol?’ as well as being a useful guide on how to approach alcohol after general anaesthetic. If you’re amongst the patients wondering when you can safely pop open a bottle and celebrate your new found post-surgery confidence, this is for you!

Is it dangerous to drink alcohol before surgery?

Whether you’re due to undergo facelift surgery, breast enhancement surgery, liposuction, or any other surgical procedure, drinking alcohol before going under the knife and having general anaesthetic can present a major health risk. Surgical complications are much more likely if you have an alcohol disorder, but even one incidence of binge drinking or a single drink in the days immediately before surgery can be problematic. 

How long before surgery should I stop drinking alcohol?

Generally speaking, you should avoid drinking alcohol for at least 48 hours before your scheduled surgery to minimise the possibility of serious complications both during and after the procedure. Read on to find out why.

Problems with anaesthesia

As well as ensuring your optimum comfort throughout surgery, general anaesthetic suppresses functions such as breathing, heart rate, and blood circulation. Because alcohol affects the same body systems, drinking alcohol prior to having general anaesthetic runs the risk of overloading the liver, which may not be able to metabolise multiple substances. 

Increased bleeding

Any surgery involves a certain amount of bleeding. The body responds by clotting to stop blood loss. Because alcohol can thin the blood and interfere with this process, drinking alcohol prior to surgery increases the risk of uncontrolled bleeding. If you take blood-thinning medication or have a clotting disorder such as haemophilia the risk of excessive bleeding is greater still.

Impacts other medicines

Alcohol can react with medication, causing either a bad reaction or lessening the effectiveness of the drugs you’re given just before, during, and immediately following surgery. This could cause a problem if you need pain relief, sedatives, or antibiotics prior to or following your procedure.

Bleeding, infection, sepsis

Patients with alcohol in their system have an increased risk of experiencing postoperative bleeding, as well as a higher chance of infection at the surgical site, in the respiratory system, or in the urinary tract. In severe cases, a poor immune response to infection can lead to sepsis and sepsis shock which is a potentially life-threatening condition.

Extended recovery times

Patients whose blood is thinner than normal due to alcohol in the system, can experience slowed clotting, which in turn can cause a delay in the healing of surgical wounds. Recovery time may also be increased if you had alcohol-related complications during the procedure. Alcohol can cause problems with a number of the body’s essential organs and processes including the liver, pancreas, and nervous system, which can also make it harder to recover. 

Further complications

Alcohol affects the heart and lungs. Chronic alcohol use disorder or even a single occasion of heavy drinking can leave you dehydrated, which in turn heightens the risk of a number of related problems –

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Irregular heart rate (arrhythmia)
  • Weakened heart muscles (cardiomyopathy)
  • Stroke

Any of these conditions will complicate and extend your recovery from surgery.

How soon after surgery is it safe to drink alcohol?

Following surgery it is generally advisable to avoid drinking alcohol for at least two weeks, and even then only after you have finished taking pain medication and any antibiotics you were prescribed by your consultant. This is because mixing alcohol with painkillers can be a dangerous combination, putting you at risk of damaging your wounds and over-exerting yourself. In addition, alcohol can make your post-operative swelling last longer.

When it comes to drinking alcohol after undergoing cosmetic surgery, you should adhere to your surgeon’s advice, and when you do resume consumption, don’t overdo it. While two weeks is an appropriate time frame for many patients, you should always discuss with your surgeon to determine when it is safe for you to drink alcohol again after your specific surgery and based on your personal recovery.

How can I find out more?

Coppergate Clinic’s team of specialists are always on hand and happy to assist you in making the best possible choice for your pre and post operative care. Your surgeon will discuss all aspects of preparation for and recovery following surgery and the team is always on hand to further answer questions as and when they arise. If you would like to find out more about our consultation process or indeed book a complimentary appointment with one of our fully qualified surgeons, do not hesitate to contact us today.

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