Use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming increasingly common. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence among general surgical patients, whether its use is related to disease type, and if postoperative patient-perceived problems and actual complications may be related to some CAM use. One hundred fifty-one consecutive patients over a 3 month period were queried. Demographic information was obtained from the medical record pertaining to age, gender, race, marital status, treatment and postoperative complications. CAM practices were divided into three categories: body/structure, herbal medications/supplements, and mind/spirit. Data were analyzed for overall use of CAM and type of CAM. Relationships of CAM use to gender, age, race, and disease type, patient-perceived postoperative problems, and actual incidence of postoperative complications were determined. Sixty patients (40%) used some type of CAM: 17% body/structure interventions, 31% herbal medications, and 3% mind/spirit practices. Demographics of CAM use: 47% of Caucasians, compared to 29% of African-Americans (OR=2.2, p=0.03); 44% of females, compared to 34% of males (p=NS); 49% of patients60 years old (OR=2.0, p=0.04); 48% of patients with a cancer diagnosis, compared to 31% of patients with a benign diagnosis (OR=3.1, p=0.04). Thirty-three of CAM patients reported some type of postoperative problem, compared to 26% of non-CAM patients (p=NS). Actual complication rates were 8% for CAM patients, compared to 11% for non-CAM patients (p=NS). Use of CAM is relatively common, with younger, Caucasian patients with malignancies being the most common users. However, there seems to be no difference in perceived postoperative problems, nor actual postoperative complications between CAM and non-CAM users.