Prevalence of over-the-counter and complementary medication use in the otolaryngology preoperative patient: A patient safety initiative


  • Presented in part at the Triological Society Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meetings, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., April 29–30, 2011.

  • The authors have no funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.



To determine the prevalence of over-the-counter and complementary and alternative medication use in the preoperative otolaryngology patient population.

Study Design:

Cross-sectional survey.


Data were collected from preoperative surveys given to all patients undergoing surgery by a single physician with an academic practice over a 6-month period from March to September 2010. Responses were compiled and combined with demographic information obtained from the computer-based chart system.


A total of 92 patients, with ages ranging from 5 to 84 years old (average, 41), completed the survey. Fifty-three (58%) patients were female, and 39 (42%) were male. Forty-two (46%) patients reported the use of nonprescription medications, and 48% reported the use of multiple medications. Of those who reported using medication, 11 (26%) were male and 31 (74%) were female. The average age of nonprescription medication users was 49 years. The most commonly reported over-the-counter medications were aspirin and ibuprofen. The most commonly reported complementary and alternative medications were green tea, fish oil, and vitamin E.


The use of nonprescription medications in the otolaryngology preoperative population is very common, especially in the female patient. The most commonly reported medications are associated with serious potential complications, and awareness of their use is critical before the patient undergoes surgery.