A study in February’s Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), found that herbal supplements may cause serious health complications during surgery.
While natural herbal supplements are touted as offering a wide range of health benefits, they may not be “harmless” during plastic surgery when dangerous side-effects may occur, according to the study.
The situation is made even more problematic by the fact that approximately 55% of plastic surgery patients take supplements but often do not tell their surgeons.
According to study co-author and ASPS member, Dr. James Bradley of the University of California, Los Angeles: “When patients are asked about the medications they are taking, many do not mention medicinal herbs because they assume that they are safe. What many unsuspecting patients don’t know is that the natural herbs they are taking may cause serious complications during and after surgery.”
The 55% of plastic surgery patients who used herbal supplements took at least two different ones at least one daily. The most popular supplements were found to be chondroitin (18%), ephedra (18%), echinacea (14%) and glucosamine (10%).
While all of these supplements are claimed to have beneficial effects, they may cause serious problems in the operating room. For example, chondroitin is often used to treat osteoarthritis. Chondroitin, however, may cause bleeding complications during surgery, particularly when used in combination with prescription blood-thinning medications.
Ephedra is already a substance that has been blamed for all types of health problems. Thus, while it may help people to lose weight loss, increase energy and treat respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis, it has also been linked to increased blood pressure, heart rate and metabolic rate, heart attacks, heart arrhythmia, stroke and even death.
Echinacea is commonly used to prevent and treat viral, bacterial and fungal infections, as well as chronic wounds, ulcers and arthritis. However, it can trigger immunosuppression, resulting in slow wound healing and infection.
Glucosamine, often paired with chondroitin, is made of chemical elements that mimic human insulin, and may trigger hypoglycemia during surgery.
Thus, according to Dr. Bradley, patients “should tell doctors about all of the medications they are taking – natural or prescribed. Only then can we safely suggest the appropriate discontinuation period, which can range from 24 hours to one month. Taking this precaution is essential to a safe surgery and smooth recovery.”