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Beer, wine, and a martini on a bar top.

Alcohol use, especially the amount of alcohol you drink daily, can affect your surgery and recovery. Decreasing your use of alcohol or stopping altogether before surgery will help speed up your recovery and reduce your risk of developing complications post-operatively. It is very important to let your healthcare team know how much you drink daily so that we can better plan your care.

Side effects of alcohol use and surgery

  • Interferes with anesthesia. You may require higher doses during surgery.
  • Interferes with specific medications causing an increase or a decrease in how the medication works. This means you could require more or less for the medication to work.
  • Increased surgical recovery time requiring longer hospital stay.
  • Delayed wound healing and surgical site infections.
  • Increase in bleeding episodes requiring transfusion post-operatively.
  • Increased risk of infection after surgery, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and sepsis.

When does alcohol withdrawal begin?

Alcohol withdrawal can begin four to 12 hours after your last drink and can last up to 24 hours. The more you drink daily, the higher your chance of experiencing alcohol withdrawal. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the U.S. define frequent, heavy alcohol use as:

  • Men - more than four drinks daily or more than 14 drinks per week
  • Women - more than three drinks daily or more than seven drinks per week
  • If you are in this category, you are at an increased risk of experiencing the side effects listed below during and after surgery.

Did you know?

  • If you stop drinking alcohol suddenly, it can cause withdrawal symptoms such as, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, insomnia, agitation, fever, extreme sweating and seizures. You may experience other symptoms such as high blood pressure, fast heart rate, or confusion.
  • You can be at risk for other complications such as bleeding, infections, and heart problems.
  • Your healthcare team can prescribe medications to prevent and reduce symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, but only if you let them know how much you drink every day!

What can you do before surgery to prevent alcohol-related problems?

Once your surgery is planned, try to stop drinking. If you have difficulty not drinking, please share that with your healthcare team and let them know if you experience any withdrawal symptoms listed above. Be honest with your healthcare team about how much alcohol you drink. At Moffitt, we are here to make sure your surgical experience is a positive one.

Developed for the ERAS Program. Produced by the Patient Education Department. Reviewed by Patient & Family Advisors.