Does Alcohol really affect my surgical recovery?

It has been long known that alcohol and sports have gone hand-in-hand. From football to baseball and everything in-between, alcohol has become a large part of the sports culture. But how does alcohol affect your system and is it okay to drink following surgical recovery or an injury?

Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it opens up your arteries wider and allows your blood to flow quicker. If you had surgery, swelling is likely to occur but if you add alcohol on top of that, additional swelling will occur, possibly causing additional damages to the surgical site. It also weakens your immune system, increasing your likelihood of getting an infection…yikes!

Alcohol also can have negative effects when it is combined with medication. Post-surgically, you are likely going to be given medications to help with pain, nausea, infection prevention, and/or inflammation. Taking alcohol with medication can be dangerous and is never advised.

It is recommended to reduce or stop drinking alcohol altogether before you have surgery as this can allow your body to get back to baseline. This in turn, can help with decreased recovery time and complications.

When can I start drinking alcohol again? That is a good question with many different answers. The typical consensus is 2 weeks post surgically. However, if you have a very in depth surgery and have complications or several other co-morbidities, this may not be enough time without alcohol to recover properly. Please consult with your doctor and/or surgeon for further individualized instruction.

Without surgery or injury, there is still a limit on what is considered a healthy alcohol consumption amount. Typically, for women, this is one drink/day and two drinks/day for men. A drink is considered 12 oz. of beer or seltzer water (5% alcohol), 5 oz. of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits (40% alcohol). Please take this into consideration and if you are consuming alcohol, to drink responsibly.

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