Omega-3 and fish oil supplements do not cause increased bleeding during spinal decompression surgery

J Spinal Disord Tech. 2012 May;25(3):129-32. doi: 10.1097/BSD.0b013e3182120227.


Study design: Retrospective case-control study.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess whether preoperative use of fish oil supplements increases intraoperative blood loss and postoperative bleeding complications during lumbar decompression surgery.

Summary of background data: Omega-3 fatty acids (n-3FA) are widely used as over-the-counter supplements because of well-established cardioprotective and antiplatelet effects. Concern over bleeding associated with changes in platelet function have led to prohibiting these supplements before surgery although there are no clinical data available in the spinal surgery literature to guide such recommendations.

Methods: Ninety-five consecutive patients who underwent posterior-only lumbar decompression by a single surgeon were included. Patients who had taken n-3FA within 14 days of surgery were compared with a control group with respect to demographics, preoperative use of other anticoagulants, surgical time, estimated intraoperative blood loss, and postoperative complications including reoperation for epidural hematoma and wound infection. Power analysis suggested 11 patients taking n-3FA were necessary to reach statistical significance based on pilot data.

Results: Sixteen patients took n-3FA supplements, stopping an average of 2.3 days before surgery. These were no significant between-group differences in demographic parameters, use of other anticoagulants, and surgical time. Estimated blood loss was higher in the control group but the difference was not significant (154 vs. 138 mL, P=0.53). There were 2 complications related to bleeding in the control group and none in the n-3FA group.

Conclusions: We found no increase in intraoperative blood loss or postoperative bleeding complications associated with preoperative use of n-3FA supplements up to an average of 2.3 days before surgery. Although further studies are necessary before this finding can be generalized to other types of spinal surgery, our study corroborates findings from investigations in other surgical specialties that suggest preoperative n-3FA is not associated with increased risk of intraoperative and postoperative bleeding.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Blood Loss, Surgical
  • Decompression, Surgical / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Hemorrhage / chemically induced*
  • Postoperative Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Spinal Cord Compression / complications*
  • Spinal Cord Compression / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fish Oils