2 Ways Your Medications Might Complicate Orthopedic Surgery

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If you are facing orthopedic surgery, you will visit your orthopaedic surgeon for your "pre-op" appointment prior to your surgery date. During this time, you will get the necessary medical tests that are routinely performed to help ensure that you are healthy enough to withstand your surgical procedure. In addition, the doctor or nurse will give you a set of instructions to follow for when you return home after your surgery.

This instruction sheet is a list of "dos and don't," specifically tailored to your surgical procedure, and while these post-operative instructions are typically very comprehensive, they may not address the risks of taking certain medications. Here are two ways your medications may complicate the post-operative phase of your orthopedic surgery and what you can do about them:

Increased Bleeding

Certain medications such as aspirin decrease platelet aggregation. When this happens, you may experience abnormal or prolonged bleeding because aspirin diminishes the stickiness of your platelets, reducing their ability to clot effectively.

If your doctor has prescribed a daily aspirin to help prevent a heart attack or stroke, do not stop taking it abruptly. Doing so may put you at risk for a cardiac or neurological event. If your surgical procedure is extensive such as hip replacement, your surgeon will probably prescribe prescription anticoagulant medications, and while these can also cause abnormal bleeding in the same manner as aspirin, they are commonly prescribed after orthopedic surgeries to help prevent blood clots.

Talk to your surgeon about discontinuing your aspirin therapy prior to surgery. This is especially important when prescription anticoagulants will be used post-operatively. Both medications, when taken together, may heighten your risk for dangerous bleeding, both at your surgical site and internally. 

Diminished Circulation

When you have optimal circulation, the healing process is enhanced. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes and peripheral vascular disease can impeded blood flow, diminishing venous circulation. In addition, medications can also decrease circulation which may stall or delay healing after you undergo surgery.

Beta blockers, for example, can hinder circulation, especially in your extremities. These medications are prescribed to manage high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, and chest pain, and while effective in managing these disorders, beta blockers can decrease the blood flow to your surgical site.

This happens because beta blockers increase blood flow and circulation to the heart, and because of the increased circulation to the cardiovascular system, blood flow to the extremities is impaired. This means that if your surgery is for a problem with your arms or legs, you'll have to be vigilant about checking your surgical for increased swelling, pain, redness, and drainage, as these may be signs of poor circulation. If you take beta blockers, talk to your doctor about ways to help improve circulation, which may include mild exercise, warm baths if permitted, gentle massage, and increasing your water intake.

If you are facing orthopedic surgery and take aspirin, prescription anticoagulants, or beta blockers, speak with your physician prior to your scheduled surgery date. This will help you to better recognize any delays in healing or circulatory problems which may arise as a result of your medications.