Reducing the Risk of Bleeding After Surgery

Improved techniques have made bleeding after surgery much less common than it once was.

However, you still need to be aware of the risk. Here are some tips for prevention:

  • Show your doctors all the medicines you take. When you're in the doctor's office, it's easy to forget the names of your medications. So here's a simple solution: Bring every drug and supplement you use -- prescriptions, over-the-counters, vitamins, teas, homeopathic medications -- to the doctor's office or the hospital. That way, your doctor can see exactly what you're taking and at what dose.
  • Don't assume that over-the-counter drugs, homeopathic, or natural medications are harmless. People often think that common drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen can't have any serious risks because they're sold without a prescription. In fact, both of these medications can increase your risk of bleeding after surgery. Garlic supplementation or extensive dietary garlic intake has also been associated with an increased bleeding tendency.
  • Before surgery, tell your doctor if you've had uncontrolled bleeding after surgery before. The biggest predictor for bleeding after surgery is having bled after surgery -- even minor surgery -- in the past. So make sure your doctor knows if you've had this problem. If you have, he or she may recommend that you bank some blood before surgery as a precaution.
  • Ask for a blood test. If you have any concerns that you may have a tendency to bleed easily or that your blood count is low, ask to have it tested before undergoing surgery, Griffin tells WebMD.
  • Be certain that your doctor will be checking for signs of bleeding after surgery. It never hurts to ask. If you're at risk, make sure you're being watched closely for signs of bleeding, says Peter B. Angood, MD, co-director of the Joint Commission International Center for Patient Safety.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on February 25, 2016


SOURCES: Peter B. Angood, MD, vice president, chief patient safety officer, The Joint Commission, Oakbridge Terrace, Ill.; co-director, Joint Commission International Center for Patient Safety. Dale Bratzler, DO, MPH, professor, Department of Health Administration and Policy; associate dean, College of Public Health; professor, Department of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Carolyn Clancy, MD, director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, Md. Fran Griffin, RRT, MPA, former director, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Cambridge, Mass. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2004.

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