Coffee could pick you up after that operation Caffeine lack may cause headache

September 03, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- If you develop a headache after your next operation, don't blame your doctors, say researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Have a cup of coffee instead.

Puzzled that a number of surgery patients complained of headaches that sometimes delayed their discharge, Mayo researchers have determined that often it is nothing more than lack of caffeine that triggers the problem.

They now recommend that most patients recovering from surgery be served drinks containing caffeine.

"We anticipate that it will reduce the incidence of headache and, if one is developing, make it disappear," said Dr. Mark Ereth, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and participant in the study.

Most Americans consume caffeine, either in coffee or in colas. But when scheduled for surgery, they are told not to drink or eat anything the morning of the operation.

By the time many of these patients recover from the anesthetic, the researchers say in a study published in this month's issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, they are suffering the classic caffeine withdrawal symptom: a dull, frontal headache.

Although postoperative headaches are rarely life-threatening, they can delay patients' discharge and diminish their ability to care for themselves after surgery, the study said.

"They may not eat as much, drink as many fluids and may not get discharged as early," Dr. Ereth said. Caffeine also has been shown to be as effective as Tylenol in treating nonmigraine headaches, he said.

The study also underscores the need for doctors to consider the ramifications of their orders before issuing them.

"Many times, doctors ask patients to withstand from food overnight or follow other instructions without regard to how it might impact on their daily lives," Dr. Ereth said.

The instructions are designed to protect patients' health, but they sometimes can interfere with their quick recoveries, he said.

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