What Happens if You Drink Water Before Surgery

Before you undergo surgery, it’s likely your doctor will give you a list of things to do and not do in the days leading up to it. These are called pre-operative instructions, or pre-op for short.

These instructions are there to help you prepare mentally and physically for surgery by managing stress, eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, and making other lifestyle changes that will aid in your recovery process. 

However, there are some patients who take their pre-operative instructions so seriously that they even manage to alter their behavior in a way that directly contradicts the advice given by their surgeon.

Such is the case with many people who drink a lot of water before going under the knife. But why? Keep reading to learn more about what happens if you drink water before surgery.

glass of water
Image Credit: verywellhealth.com

What Happens if You Drink Water Before Surgery?

Excessive water consumption before surgery can lead to a phenomenon referred to as hyponatremia. This can affect your heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels all of which can be monitored during surgery with the help of your surgeon.

This condition can cause a number of potentially detrimental symptoms like fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headaches, mental confusion, and changes in your blood pressure. 

If any of these side effects become severe, your surgeon may have to stop the surgery and administer fluids intravenously. In extreme cases, hyponatremia can even lead to death.

However, this is extremely rare and is more likely to occur in people with weakened immune systems or other underlying health conditions.

How Can Drinking Water Before Surgery Benefit You?

First and foremost, drinking plenty of water before surgery can help you stay hydrated which, in turn, can reduce your risk of infection. Generally, when you become dehydrated, your immune system gets weaker, which can make you more susceptible to contracting infections like urinary tract infections (UTIs), blood infections, wound infections, etc. 

That said, people who are on certain medications, such as low-dose aspirin, blood thinners, or antibiotics, are at an even higher risk of developing an infection because these drugs can reduce blood flow to certain parts of the body, including the kidneys, which help us maintain proper hydration. 

Similarly, if you’re on certain types of medication, you may experience extra urination and subsequent fluid loss, which can further exacerbate any hydration issues you might be experiencing.

What the Experts Say About Drinking Water Before Surgery?

It’s important to note that most surgeons recommend patients drink plenty of water in the days leading up to their surgeries. And, if you are scheduled to have a laparoscopic procedure, you should drink even more water before surgery.

People who undergo abdominal surgeries, those who have diabetes, or those who need blood transfusions are also encouraged to drink lots of water. 

Many surgeons believe that the more hydrated a patient is before surgery, the less pain, vomiting, and nausea they will experience after the procedure. In fact, a study published in the journal Anaesthesia found that patients who drank plenty of water before surgery experienced less pain after the procedure.

How Much Water Should You Drink Before Surgery?

The general rule of thumb is to drink about three cups of water (or, 8 ounces) every day a week before your surgery. But again, it’s best to err on the side of caution, so if you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for advice.

If you have been instructed by your doctor to drink more water in the days leading up to surgery, you should aim to drink about two liters of water per day. 

Keep in mind that water is one of the main components that make up your blood, so drinking too much can cause your blood to become too diluted. This can lead to slower blood flow and an increased risk of clotting.

You don’t want to overdo it, though, as excessive water intake can lead to bloating, electrolyte imbalance, and even kidney damage. 

You should also be mindful of other beverages you consume since they can also contribute to hydration. For example, caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea will cause you to urinate more frequently and excrete water from your system, which can reduce your total water intake.

Is It Okay to Drink Coffee Before Surgery?

As we mentioned above, caffeine is a diuretic and will cause you to urinate more frequently. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should avoid drinking coffee before surgery.

Many surgeons advise against consuming caffeine before surgery because it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to an increased risk of complications. 

If you are a coffee drinker, it may be best to stop several days before your surgery so that you can avoid these side effects. Coffee contains caffeine, but it also contains other substances that can act as diuretics as well. For example, coffee contains substances called alpha-hydroxy acids and caffeine, which are also diuretics. 

So, despite the fact that coffee is a diuretic, it can actually increase your water intake as well. However, if you are sensitive to caffeine, your body may need more time to process the substances found in coffee, which could result in dehydration.

The Bottom line

If you’re nervous about your upcoming surgery, drinking more water before and after surgery is a great way to help you feel more prepared. However, it’s important to remember that excessive water intake can cause your blood to become too diluted, which can lead to slower blood flow, an increased risk of clotting, and even potential death.

However, drinking the right amount of water before surgery can help you feel more prepared and less anxious. For most people, three cups of water a day a week before surgery is enough.

If you follow your pre-operative instructions, you can minimize your risk of complications before and after your surgery. It is important to remember that these instructions are designed to help you, so it’s important not to go overboard. So, be sure to drink just enough water to stay hydrated and healthy.

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