Can I Have Surgery If I'm Sick | Donaldson Plastic Surgery

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By Dr. Michelle Sieffert |

Can I Have Surgery If I’m Sick?

The Importance Of Your Overall Health Before Surgery

Can I Have Surgery If I’m Sick?

Through scratchy voices, we occasionally hear the following question from our patients: “Can I have surgery if I’m sick?” The quick answer: sometimes. Your symptoms, severity of symptoms, type of illness, intensity of procedure and timing all play a role as our surgical team makes this decision with you.

To provide greater clarity, we will highlight the symptoms that may lead to your surgery being rescheduled until you are back at full strength, along with the potential risks of undergoing a procedure while ill and what you should do if you’re feeling under the weather.

The Symptoms That May Disqualify You From Surgery


  • Fever
  • Cold, flu, RSV or Covid within 2 weeks of surgery
  • Bronchitis or pneumonia within 30 days of surgery
  • Coughing
  • Severe congestion
  • Nausea or stomach virus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Infected skin in the targeted area

These symptoms impact the body’s ability to tolerate anesthesia and surgical stress. The severity and nature of the illness play a significant role in determining whether surgery can proceed. Certain illnesses may pose minimal risk, while others may increase the likelihood of complications.

Other Factors To Consider:


  • Chronic Illness & Other Underlying Health Conditions: Individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or respiratory issues, may be at higher risk during surgery, especially when combined with an acute illness. Our team identifies these conditions early in the consultation process as part of our due diligence.
  • Surgical Procedure: The surgical procedure’s complexity and invasiveness should also be considered. More extensive surgeries may place additional strain on the body, making it essential to be in optimal health.
  • Timing: Evaluate the timing of the surgery in relation to the illness. In some cases, postponing the surgery until you have fully recovered may be the safest course of action.

How Does Illness Increase Risk During Surgery?

  • Compromised Immune Response: Being sick weakens the immune system, which may increase the risk of postoperative infections, pneumonia or blood clots.
  • Delayed Healing: Illness can impair the body’s ability to heal properly after surgery, leading to prolonged recovery times.
  • Increased Anesthesia Risks: Certain illnesses may affect how the body responds to anesthesia, potentially leading to complications during or after surgery.
  • Respiratory Issues: Respiratory infections or illnesses can increase the risk of breathing problems during surgery and may exacerbate existing respiratory conditions.
  • Fluid & Electrolyte Imbalances: Illness can disrupt fluid and electrolyte balance in the body, which is crucial for maintaining stable physiological functions during surgery.

What Medications Should I Stop Taking Before Surgery?

Before surgery, you may need to stop taking certain medications to reduce the risk of complications during and after the procedure. The specific medications to stop and the duration of cessation can vary depending on the type of surgery and your medical history. Before stopping any of these medications, you should always consult with your primary healthcare provider.

These Often Include:


  • Blood Thinners/Anticoagulants (3-7 days before): Medications such as warfarin, heparin, dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban, and aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding during surgery.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs – 7 days before): Drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding and interfere with the body’s ability to form blood clots.
  • Herbal Supplements & Vitamins (1 – 2 weeks before): Certain herbal supplements and vitamins (such as vitamin E, garlic, ginkgo biloba, green teas, green tea extract and fish oil) can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia and other medications used during surgery.
  • Corticosteroids: Long-term use of corticosteroids can suppress the adrenal glands’ ability to produce cortisol, which is essential for responding to stress during surgery. Patients who have been taking corticosteroids may need to have their dosage adjusted or gradually tapered off before surgery, under the guidance of their healthcare provider.
  • Diabetes Medications: Patients with diabetes may need to adjust their diabetes medications before surgery to prevent blood sugar fluctuations during and after the procedure. The specific recommendations will depend on the type of diabetes medication, the patient’s blood sugar control and the duration of fasting before surgery.
  • Weight Loss Injections (at least 2 weeks): Injections (such as semaglutide, Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro and Trulicity) causes delayed gastric emptying, which increases the risk of gastric content aspiration while under anesthesia.
  • CPAP Machines: While not a medication, patients with sleep apnea should avoid nasal pillow CPAP masks. Instead, they should opt for full face masks to ensure a tighter seal while sleeping.

Dr. Donaldson discussing surgery preparation with a patient

How Long After One Surgery Can I Have Another Surgery?

This depends on various factors, including the complexity of the surgeries, adherence to recovery protocols and your overall health. In general, we typically advise patients to wait between 6 – 12 weeks before undergoing a subsequent surgery. You should always be transparent with your provider when discussing this timetable.

Your Mental Health Is Also A Priority

Being in a good mental health space before a procedure can positively impact your surgical experience and recovery. Mental well-being contributes to a stronger immune system, reducing the risk of complications and promoting faster healing post-surgery. Additionally, being emotionally prepared can enhance your ability to cope with discomfort, manage stress and adhere to postoperative care instructions, ultimately leading to a smoother, more successful recovery process.

What Should I Do If I Feel Sick But Have Surgery Coming Up?

Contact your surgeon’s office and explain your symptoms as soon as possible. The healthcare team can assess the situation before determining if the surgery can move forward as scheduled or needs to be postponed to allow you to recover fully. Your transparency and timeliness are appreciated but are also vital to ensuring a successful procedure and optimized postoperation recovery.

Dr. Michelle Sieffert Author BioAbout The Author:

As a board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Michelle Sieffert believes it is essential to educate patients about the risks associated with undergoing surgery while sick and to guide them in making informed decisions that align with their overall well-being. She is renowned for her long-lasting surgical results, but also her comforting bedside manner and understanding of the human body, as a whole.

Dr. Sieffert routinely performs facelifts, neck lifts, tummy tuck surgery and breast augmentations with incredible outcomes.

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