Should you stop smoking if you’re having surgery?

Smoking and Surgery

The harmful effects of smoking are well documented. We all know smoking causes stroke, heart disease, cancer and numerous other diseases. But, what if you are planning to have a surgery? Should you stop smoking before and after the surgery? Some surgeons tell their patients to stop smoking several months before the surgery. Dr Jeremy Hunt, Plastic Surgeon based in Edgecliff NSW warns his patients about the dangers of smoking and surgery and helps us to understand why.

If you smoke before or after surgery:

  • Your heart will starve of oxygen;
  • You increase your chance of blood clots on your veins;
  • You’ll find it harder to breath during and after surgery.
  • Wound healing will be impaired with a high rate of wound complications
What’s in cigarette smoke that increases your risk during and after surgery?

Nicotine contained in cigarettes is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it reduces blood flow to the tissues. Cigarettes also contain carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide weakens the oxygen carrying capacity of haemoglobin in the blood.

What if you are a smoker but are looking at having plastic surgery?

During plastic surgery, surgeons reshape or move segments of tissues from one place to another, in order to improve appearance, or function, or both. For this procedure, surgeon must cut off a part of the blood supply to the tissue. This is a common practice during a facelift, tummy tuck, or breast lift procedures. After the blood supply is cut off, the remaining blood supply is more than enough under normal conditions. However, it becomes severely less than sufficient in patients who are regular smokers.

What are the recommendations for smokers who plan to have a surgery?

The earlier you quit smoking, the greater your chances are of dodging surgery-related complications. It is highly recommended that you do not smoke on the day of your surgery. A smoker’s lungs begin to function better only twelve hours after quitting. Carbon monoxide levels drop and in less than a day blood flow improves minimising the likelihood of post-operative complications.

What are the additional side effects of a surgery if you are a smoker?

Continuing to smoke after surgery increases a patient’s risks of complications, such as infections in the surgical incision. A study showed, more than 50% of patients who did not quit smoking after surgery developed complications, compared with less than 20% of those who quit.

How does being a smoker affect your healing/recovery time after plastic surgery?

Smoking is thought to delay wound healing through impairing creation of good, wound-healing tissue. New research shows that some smokers may experience more pain after surgery than non smokers. There are 7,000 different chemicals found in cigarette smoke, which may increase inflammation and affect the way your body interprets pain signals.

In facelift surgery, the nicotine narrows the blood vessels that are vital to keeping your lifted skin alive as you heal from surgery. Skin death will occur due to inadequate blood flow. As the skin turns black and settle, it will leave permanent scars on your face. Here, the culprit isn’t smoke but the nicotine itself, therefore nicotine gums and patches are equally bad.

It is obviously in your best interests to stop smoking altogether, however we have shown you reason enough to at least stop in preparation for any plastic surgery procedure to increase your chance of having a successful outcome.

Dr Jeremy Hunt’s Happy Quote of the Day “stopping smoking before surgery is the single most important thing a patient can do to ensure a good result from any procedure”.

For more information on Dr Jeremy Hunt see his listing here.

If you need help to stop smoking, check out this amazing Campaign.

Further Reading Related to Smoking Before and After Surgery