Supplements before surgery? Talk to your doctor

Pat Lester
Nursing Program Coordinator, Unit 7-1 Orthopaedics/Neurosurgery

Not long ago, I read the March/April 2012 issue of Arthritis Today. I was surprised to learn some ordinary herbs and supplements, like glucosamine and chondroitin, can cause complications after surgery. Complications like slow healing and bleeding can occur when these herbs or supplements are taken along with anticoagulant medications your doctor has prescribed (such as aspirin, Coumadin, Lovenox or Xarelto). Since many knee and hip replacement patients are prescribed these anticoagulants after surgery to reduce the chance of developing blood clots, I did a little investigating. 

Assortment of pills and supplementsFish oil, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, red clover, turmeric and Vitamin E are other dietary supplements that can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with Coumadin, Lovenox or Xarelto. St. John’s wort, taken for centuries to combat depression and anxiety, can reduce the effectiveness of anticoagulants. Coenzyme Q10, rice bran and rhubarb also block the absorption of anticoagulants, increasing your risk of developing a blood clot after surgery.

If you or a loved one is planning to have surgery, remember to tell your doctor about any herbal and over-the-counter medications. According to my favorite sources—our own Durham Regional physicians— the rule of thumb is to stop taking these supplements two weeks before surgery; then ask your doctor before taking them again.

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