Sexual Health Q&A

Should men stop taking erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs before having surgery?

Yes. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists recommends that men avoid taking erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs like Viagra and Cialis for a full 24 hours before surgery.

When patients receive anesthesia, they are often given drugs to control high blood pressure that might occur during surgery. Such drugs contain a substance called nitric oxide.

ED drugs also contain nitric oxide, which helps men achieve erections by relaxing muscles and widening arteries so that more blood can flow into the penis and make it firm for intercourse. These medications usually take 24 hours to leave the body.

Combining ED drugs with anesthesia can lessen the effects of the blood pressure drugs. It can also lead to poor circulation to the kidneys, heart failure, and other side effects.

Men should be up front with their doctors about any medications they use, including complementary and alternative medicines, like dietary supplements, ginseng, and ginger. It’s important for anesthesiologists – or any doctor - to know exactly what a patient is taking so that dangerous drug interactions can be avoided.