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Your Medical History for Anesthesia Care

Information for Your Anesthesiologist Before Surgery

It’s important to share your medical history with your anesthesiologist to ensure that you receive the appropriate care during your surgery. Be sure to inform your anesthesiologist about any of the following:

Herbal Supplements

Certain herbal products, commonly taken by millions of Americans, may cause changes in the heart rate and blood pressure, and may increase bleeding in some patients. The popular herbs, such as gingko biloba (an herb used for many conditions associated with aging, including poor circulation and memory loss), garlic (an herb often used for cardiovascular conditions and to help prevent colds, flu, and other infectious diseases), ginger, and ginseng (used as a general tonic to increase overall body tone; considered helpful in elevating energy levels and resistance to stress) may lead to excess blood loss by preventing blood clots from forming. In addition, St. John's Wort (a popular herb used for mild to moderate depression) and kava kava (another popular herb used for depression and to elevate mood) may prolong the sedative effect of the anesthetic. The American Society of Anesthesiologists advises patients planning to have surgery to stop taking all herbal supplements preferably two to three weeks prior to surgery to minimize the of these substances.


Informing your anesthesiologist of all known allergies is very important. This includes allergies to both foods and drugs.

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications

It is very important to let your surgeon and anesthesiologist know about any prescription medications and over the counter medications you are taking, or have recently taken. Certain prescription medications, such as Coumadin, a blood thinner, must be discontinued for some time prior to surgery. In addition, physicians need to be aware of people take a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack, and certain dietary supplements, as they can prolong bleeding and interfere with muscle relaxants used by anesthesiologists.

Cigarette Smoking and Drinking

Cigarette smoking and alcohol can affect your body just as strongly (and sometimes more strongly) than many prescription medications you may be taking. Because of the way cigarettes and alcohol affect the lungs, heart, liver, and blood, these substances can change the way an anesthetic drug works during surgery. It is important to let your surgeon and anesthesiologist know about past, recent, and current consumption of these substances prior to surgery.

Undergoing surgery can be a good motivator to quit smoking. Most hospitals are smoke-free and physicians, nurses, and other health professionals will be there to give you support. In addition, you will heal and recover faster, especially in the incision area, or if your operation involves any bones. Quitting smoking also reduces your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Street drugs (Marijuana, Cocaine, Amphetamines, etc.)

Patients are often reluctant to discuss matters of illegal drug consumption, but you should remember that all conversations between you, your surgeon and anesthesiologist are confidential. It is crucial that he/she know about your past, recent, and current consumption of these substances. It is important to keep in mind that the only interest your physician has in this information is learning enough about your physical condition to provide you with the safest anesthesia possible.