Smoking and Surgery

Are you a smoker who is scheduled to have surgery? No matter what kind of surgery you are having, your health will suffer if you decide to smoke for several weeks before and after your surgery. As difficult as it is, if you are going to have surgery, you should seriously consider quitting for your health.

Smoking and Surgery: What Can Go Wrong

There are a number of complications, risks, and potential infections that can develop as a result of smoking pre- or post-surgery. What exactly can go wrong? Here’s a run-down on the most common and serious complications that can arise as a result of smoking pre- or post-surgery:

Wound Infection. One of the most common complications that can occur if you smoke is wound infection. Smoking, in effect, steals oxygen from cells that are in the process of healing. Smoking is a risk factor for wound infection in almost any kind of surgery. Researchers have found that smokers continue smoking before surgery are at a much higher risk of developing wounds that do not heal properly.

Cardiopulmonary complications. Tobacco smoke is very hard on the heart, lungs, and the entire immune system. If you are scheduled for any type of heart surgery, it is imperative that you quit smoking for at least six weeks before your surgery.

Vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction refers to the shrinking of the small blood vessels. Many heavy smokers are apt to experience vasoconstriction because smoking steals available oxygen from cells. When this happens, the small blood vessels shrink and the amount of hemoglobin that is needed to move oxygen from one part of the body to another. Smoking also interferes with other chemicals that let the body release enough oxygen to the cells.

Post-surgery complications are greater for smokers. Scientists at Bispebjerg University Hospital in Denmark found that patients who quit smoking before surgery were significantly less likely to develop complications post-surgery. The researchers found that, on average, patients who quit smoking pre-surgery were kept in the hospital two days less than those who kept smoking before their surgery.

Remember, you should strive to come to surgery with a body that is at its healthiest. The trauma of surgery is hard on your body. Smoking will only make it harder for your body to heal. In some cases, surgeons may even elect not to treat a patient if they are smokers.

Smoking Cessation for Surgery

If you’re a smoker, the best thing you can do for your body prepare for surgery is to quit altogether, or at least reduce dramatically the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. Recent research suggests that smokers stop smoking at least six to eight weeks prior to surgery. Unfortunately, many of the smoking cessation products that would normally be available to smokers are not recommended for those heading into surgery. Nicotine gum and nicotine patches are not advised for surgery patients. The nicotine in the gum acts similarly as cigarette nicotine, interfering with the healing process in much the same manner. Nicotine patches are also dangerous because the flow of nicotine can interfere with the flow of blood.

Many hospitals and clinics offer smoking cessation clinics that help surgery patients stop smoking before their scheduled surgery. Here are a few general guidelines on smoking cessation for surgery.

Stop immediately. If you are scheduled for upcoming surgery, you don’t have time to wean yourself off cigarettes. Most doctors advise that you stop smoking as soon as you are told about your surgery. For many people, the health scare is enough to throw the cigarettes out!

Read up on your surgery. Take the time to learn about your surgery. This will help you stay focused on your health, and the importance of keeping your body in good shape for the surgery. While you don’t have to go into detail, become familiar with the procedure.

Speak to your physician about smoking cessation aids you can use. Many times, surgery patients are unable to use such smoking cessation aids as nicotine gum and the nicotine patch. Find out what options are available for your specific case.

Quit together. Find someone to quit with you. Making the commitment to quit with someone else will help keep you focused on staying cigarette-free. Also, you should strive to maintain a smoke-free household during your recovery. Some doctor’s recommend that all household smokers quit or dramatically reduce smoking during the patient’s recovery period.