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Surgery and Smoking

What if I continue to smoke?

Smoking increases the risks of serious complications during and after your surgery. The reason for complications is your heart is starved of oxygen which can increase the difficulty of breathing both during and after surgery. The lack of oxygen also impairs the healing of bones, skin and wounds. Smoking can also increase the risk of blood clots forming in your veins, and can also affect the breakdown of certain drugs in the body. The risk of infection is also increased with smoking.

Why are these risks caused from smoking?

Nicotine, contained in cigarette smoke increases your heart rate and blood pressure. As your heart is having to work harder it requires more oxygen. However, the carbon monoxide in the cigarette smoke decreases the amount of oxygen the blood can carry, hence creating difficulty for your heart and body to obtain this oxygen. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals which cause your blood to be thicker, stickier and more likely to clot. Smoking also increases mucus in your lungs therefore narrowing your airways which creates difficulty in breathing.

Your immune system is also affected by smoking and the healing of bones, skin and other body tissues slows down with smoking. Your infection rate, healing time and issues with scarring is also increased due to smoking.

If I smoke, what can I do to improve the outcome of my surgery?

It is ideal to stop smoking 6 – 8 weeks prior to and post surgery to reduce the above risks. Your recovery from surgery will more likely be faster, and any incisions or wounds are more likely to heal better. If your require a stay in hospital, the length of your stay is more likely to be less. If smoking is stopped, there is much less risk of complication, therefore less risk of requiring further surgery. There are certain surgical procedures where the increased risk associated with smoking means it is unwise to have that surgery, for example breast reduction, facelift and abdominoplasty, and your surgeon will NOT perform this type of surgery if you have not ceased smoking at least six weeks before surgery.

Can I just reduce the amount I smoke?

Reducing smoking does not appear to reduce the risks of wound or lung complications. Your body’s recovery from smoking will only start from when complete cessation of smoking begins.

After my surgery?

Smoking should be ceased after surgery as the body is in a healing and recovery period. Smoking will only stress your heart, reduce oxygen to your body and tissues, and may complicate your results.

What are the first steps to quit?

We recommend obtaining advice from a General Practitioner, and advice from other quit smoking associations such as Quit Line, phone: 131848.