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Should I stop taking antiplatelet medicines such as aspirin before minor surgery?

No, not unless your GP or other healthcare professional tells you to stop taking them.

What are antiplatelet medicines?

Antiplatelet medicines are prescribed to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Examples of antiplatelet medicines include:

Some people take low-dose aspirin without checking with their GP, hoping to reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

What do these medicines do?

Antiplatelet medicines reduce the risk of clots forming in your blood. Platelets are tiny particles in your blood that help it to clot. Antiplatelet medicines work by reducing the "stickiness" of these platelets.

Minor surgery

If you need a minor operation, you may be worried about taking medicine that affects how your blood clots. Examples of minor surgery include:

  • removing cataracts
  • having a tooth taken out
  • operations on or near the surface of your skin, including biopsies (taking a small sample of tissue)

Operations such as these don’t usually cause much bleeding.

Risks of stopping your medicine

If you stop taking your antiplatelet medicine, you increase your risk of blood clots and having a heart attack. This risk is higher than the risk of major bleeding during or after a minor operation.

Although continuing to take your medicine may slightly increase the risk of minor bleeding during or after surgery, your healthcare professional will be aware of this and take steps to control any bleeding.

You may think that stopping your antiplatelet medicine for a short time carries a low risk, but remember that it’s been prescribed to help you with a long-term condition. Stopping your medicine, even for a short period of time, could be harmful.

Talk to your healthcare professional

Before your operation, your healthcare professional will ask you about any prescribed medicines you’re taking. You should also tell them if you’re taking any over-the-counter medicines, such as low-dose aspirin.

Only stop taking your antiplatelet medicine if your healthcare professional tells you to do so.

Further information:

Heart attack

A consultant cardiologist explains what a heart attack is, the symptoms, surgical treatments and why it's important for coronary heart disease patients to reduce their risk factors.

Media last reviewed: 09/07/2015

Next review due: 09/07/2017

Page last reviewed: 02/11/2015

Next review due: 02/11/2017