Alcohol Hinders Healing After Surgery

Alcohol abuse can affect the ability of the body to fight infection and disease and recover after surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Alcohol abuse can negatively affect the stomach lining, which is an immune protector and defender in the body. Take care of your stomach lining and your stomach lining will take care of your body.

Researchers gave one group of rats alcohol and the other water for 6 months before surgery and 3 weeks after to see if the alcohol would cause post-operative complications and make healing harder.

"Talk to your doctor about alcohol treatment options"

Rodrigo Severo de Camargo Pereira, Ph.D., lead a study to determine whether or not alcohol consumption makes it harder for the body to heal after surgery. In the study they referenced many published statistics related to alcohol related negatives that prompted his scientific inquiry.

Pereira and his team did their homework and discovered that alcohol abuse contributes to cardiovascular disease, stomach and liver cancers, peptic ulcers and trauma incidents. Alcohol abuse also reduces life expectancy by around 5 years. So, they decided to ask the question: does alcohol affect the body’s ability to heal itself after surgery?

The stomach lining is made up of tiny, finger-looking things called intestinal villi. They are connected to blood vessels so they can grab onto nutrients that we eat/drink and absorb them straight into our blood stream.

Pereira referenced studies that show how long-term drinking of alcohol actually kills off the intestinal villi, which makes it harder to absorb nutrients and make new, healthy cells for the body.

Losing intestinal villi can make the body more vulnerable to things like cancer and disease. The stomach lining is an immune barrier for the body, it is meant to absorb the good and evacuate the waste. When the stomach lining is damaged by alcohol a few things can happen like malnutrition, lesions, and the inability to heal.

Pereira looked at this information and designed a study to figure out how rat’s intestinal villi would react to alcohol consumption vs. drinking water before and after surgery. So, for 180 days, 80 rats were fed and given water and 80 rats were fed and given alcohol (30% ethanol). Each rat then had a colon operation, and was observed and tested for 21 days.

The results were conclusive. The group given alcohol couldn’t gain enough weight like the water group could; they simply weren’t absorbing enough nutrition.

Their stomach linings were much weaker and after surgery they had a much rougher time with infections, fistulas, and even death at an overall rate of problems being 21:6 over the water group.

Pereira’s team concluded that drinking before and after surgery isn’t going to help matters, and will in all probability make things harder on the body.

This study was published in the journal Acta Cirurgica Brasileira, March 2012.  This study was conducted at the Division of Gastroenterology Surgery, Surgery and Orthopedics Department, Botucatu School of Medicine, Sao Paulo State University (UNESP), Brazil. No information was given about financial sourcing nor was a conflict of interest found.

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Review Date: 
April 3, 2012
Last Updated:
April 6, 2012