Once upon a time—on November 15, 2018 to be exact—we posted a blog on the benefits of fish oil for prostate and overall health. Our health-conscious patients are generally aware that fish oil and many other dietary supplements offer advantages for the whole body as well as the humble prostate gland.
Occasionally, though, a patient considering Focal Laser Ablation to treat prostate cancer raises the subject of taking fish oil supplements before the minimally invasive procedure. What sparks the question is concern that fish oil may contribute to bleeding during surgery.
Theoretical bleeding risk
Bleeding occurs when body tissue such as the skin or blood vessels wall is injured or broken. Mother Nature has given us a built-in process to guard against blood loss. First, blood vessels constrict (become narrow) to limit the flow of blood to the affected area. Then, specialized blood cells called platelets are activated and provided with chemicals to help them aggregate (clump together). This forms clots that act like plugs to stop the bleeding.
However, fish oil supplements have a property that can inhibit platelets from aggregating. In fact, this “blood-thinning” property may be one reason why fish oil helps prevent heart attacks and strokes. That said, some research suggests that if fish oil supplements are used with powerful anticoagulant medications that must be stopped before surgery, it may increase the chance of bleeding. Patients taking drugs like Coumadin or Warfarin should inform their doctors if they also take fish oil.
Danish study allays fear
But, if you’re not already on a prescription blood thinner, put your fish oil fears aside. There’s reassuring good news: while fish oil may help lower the risk of dangerous blood clots, it does not increase bleeding risk in healthy people. An impressive 2017 review of 52 published studies by Begtrup, et al.[i] should allay worries. The majority of the studies were Level 1 research (randomized, controlled trials) with at least 20 subjects; 32 papers included healthy subjects, while 20 included patients undergoing surgery, who had used fish oil. The authors write:
Overall, fish oil supplements reduced platelet aggregation in healthy subjects. Fish oil exposure in surgical patients did not increase bleeding or blood transfusions either during or after surgery. (Emphasis mine)
We hope that this message puts to rest any anxiety or concern about fish oil supplement use before Focal Laser Ablation—or any other medical procedure, for that matter. A votre santé!
NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.
[i] Begtrup KM, Krag AE, Hvas AM. No impact of fish oil supplements on bleeding risk: a systematic review. Dan Med J. 2017 May;64(5):A5366.