Omega-3 fish oil does not increase risk of bleeding in surgical patients, new study finds


New study contradicts theory that omega-3 fish oil can increase risk of bleeding in surgical patients.

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A new study published in Circulation1 contradicts a long-held theory that omega-3s fatty acids EPA and DHA can increase bleeding in surgery patients. In the study, 1516 patients scheduled for cardiac surgery were randomized to receive 6.5-8 g of omega-3 EPA and DHA over two to five days before surgery, then 1.7 g per day on the morning of the surgery until discharge, or placebo. The primary outcome of the study was the risk of peri-operative bleeding as defined by the Bleeding Academic Research Consortium and the secondary outcome as the units of blood needed for transfusion.

Results showed that the omega-3 treatment did not increase the risk of peri-operative bleeding and, more surprisingly, significantly reduced the number of units of blood needed for transfusion. In fact, analysis showed that the higher the blood EPA and DHA level on the morning of the surgery, the lower the risk of bleeding.

“The researchers in this study concluded that these findings support the need to reconsider current recommendations to stop fish oil or delay procedures for people on fish oil before cardiac surgery,” said Bill Harris, PhD, founder of OmegaQuant, coinventor of the Omega-3 Index, and one of the authors on this paper, in a press release. “In other words, bleeding in surgery (and in normal life) is not a safety concern for omega-3 supplements.”


1. Akintoye E et al. “Fish oil and perioperative bleeding: insights from the OPERA randomized trial.” Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, vol. 11, no. 11 (2018)

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