Patients tend to underreport the use of complementary medicines to their conventional health care providers. In fact, 40% to 70% of responders in many investigations did not report complementary medicine use to their doctors.
It has become important to ask patients about supplements. It is important to caution them to stop them prior to surgery. Gingko biloba should be discontinued at least 36 hours before surgery. Garlic should be discontinued at least 1 week prior to surgery. The exact time for chondrotin is unknown, so recommendations are based on guidelines from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, which advises that all herbal medicines without formal study be discontinued at 2 to 3 weeks before an elective surgical procedure. Echinacea should be discontinued 2-3 weeks prior to surgery. Ephedra should be discontinued at least 24 hours prior to surgery.
Herbal supplements are being studied as medications, but still too much is unknown. If you are the patient, tell your doctor which ones you are taking. If you are scheduled for an elective surgery, stop taking the supplements for 2-3 weeks prior to surgery.
1. Kleiner, S. M. The true nature of herbs. Phys. Sports Med. 23: 13, 1995.