Study links herbal supplement use prior to surgery with postoperative complications

Patients electing cosmetic facial procedures such as rhinoplasty at St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery may be less likely to suffer complications, thanks to the way doctors at the practice have responded to a new study.

The study, performed by researchers Case Western Reserve University and published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, links herbal supplement use prior to surgery with postoperative complications. More than half of all facial surgery patients are taking some sort of herbal supplement, the study says.

At St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery, the cornerstone of the practice is what Dr. William H. Huffaker and his colleagues refer to as the "rapid recovery" approach. They focus on establishing good communication between the patient and surgeon from the first consultation, an investment they say can save a patient from complications down the road.

"Most patients regard supplement usage as safe and may not think to tell their doctor that they're taking these products," Dr. Huffaker says, "but when the doctor and patient share a close relationship, this isn't information that gets overlooked."

The goal of the "rapid recovery" approach is to minimize bleeding and bruising. Herbal supplements have been widely documented to cause those very concerns, as well as hypertension and dry eyes, which can be especially damaging to patients who have had surgery of the face. Patients undergoing such procedures as eyelid surgery, brow lift surgery, and facelift surgery at St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery are urged by their doctors to share their supplement use and often discontinue it for a time.

Many patients don't realize that everyday supplements can cause complications and impede healing. Some of the supplements in the study that were linked to complications included multivitamins, vitamin B, and calcium supplements.

"No one wants to experience complications after surgery, so it's important to be thorough in detailing all of the supplements you are taking," says Dr. Christian A. Prada, another of the plastic surgery specialists at the St. Louis- area practice, "especially since there is a lack of data on their safety."

According to the study, the American Society of Anesthesiologists recommends that patients stop taking supplements at least 2 to 3 weeks before any surgery. Dr. Herluff G. Lund says that's a good general rule.

"We make sure we ask our patients about all the medications they're taking, and now that this new study is out, we may also encourage them to read it," says Dr. Lund, who has been with St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery since 1999. "The more our patients know, the better."

"Part of our total-patient-care philosophy is keeping patients highly informed," Dr. Huffaker adds. "We want everyone to understand each step of the procedure and recovery so they can do their part to make sure everything goes smoothly. Spreading the word about this study is part of that."

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