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Surgeries canceled by herbs

If you’re taking vitamins, or St. Johns wort, ginseng, ginko biloba or any other type herbal medicine, your surgery may be canceled.

According to the American Society of Anesthesiology, herbal products can affect the patient’s heart rate or blood pressure, thus making surgery dangerous.

With an increasing number of people using herbs, more people are failing to disclose all of the medicines they take before surgery, the staff at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital said this week.



As a result, an increasing number of surgeries have to be canceled.

In the past two weeks alone, five surgeries were canceled after patients failed to disclose to their surgeons all the medicines and vitamins they were taking, SNMH nurse Sandy Joyce said Wednesday.




“It’s gotten worse lately,” she said.

People take time off from work only to be told their surgery must be canceled, said Joyce, who has to give patients the news. “It’s the worst part of my job.”

Dr. Steven Wilbur, an anesthesiologist and chief of the medical staff at SNMH, said that until the mid-1990s, the staff did not cancel surgeries because of vitamins and herbs.

It was pretty unusual to run across people who were taking vitamins or herbal medicines, and the complications they cause weren’t well understood, he said. People need to be off the vitamins and herbs for a period of time before surgery, he stressed.

The staff is trying to get the word out that people need to be more forthcoming about the herbs, vitamins or prescription medicines they’re taking, Wilbur said.

David Hay, a chiropractor and a holistic practitioner in Nevada City, said alternative care has been around for a long time and will continue to increase in popularity. “It’s growing and growing and growing,” he predicted.

In 1997, 15 million Americans took prescription drugs concurrently with herbal medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some common herbal medicines:

? St. John1s wort: Taken by more than 7.5 million Americans for anxiety, depression, sleep orders and other problems. St. John1s wort may interfere with anesthetic drugs

? Ginko biloba: Used by about 11 million Americans to improve memory and blood circulation. Ginko biloba may interfere with blood clotting

? Ginseng: Believed to increase vitality. Ginseng can cause high blood pressure or an abnormally rapid beating of the heart

Source: The American Society of Anesthesiologists


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