Surgery & Smoking
We all know smoking causes cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease. But did you know that smoking also causes complications with surgery? It's true!
Smoking harms your body's ability to handle the surgical process and heal afterwards.
The good news is that quitting even a day or two before surgery — and staying quit afterwards — can help your body heal better. Having surgery is a great opportunity to quit. The information and support here on EX can improve your chance of success.
How does smoking affect people having surgery?
- If you smoke, you have a higher chance of developing complications such as heart attack, stroke, sepsis, shock, and death compared to non-smokers.
- Your surgical wounds are less likely to close, less likely to heal well, and more likely to become infected.
- If you're having orthopedic (bone or joint) surgery, your bones will take longer to heal than a non-smoker. If you're having plastic surgery, you have a higher chance of scarring. If you're having breast reconstruction surgery, you have a greater chance of losing your implants than a non-smoker.
- If you're a parent whose child is having surgery, it is important to stop smoking around their surgery. Children have more complications after surgery if their parents are smokers.
How does stopping smoking affect my surgical outcomes?
If you quit smoking just before surgery, your body can heal better and faster.
One study looked at patients having coronary bypass surgery. Smokers had more than twice as many heart and lung complications than non-smoking patients. On the other hand, patients who had stopped smoking for one month before surgery had no more complications than patients who had never smoked. You can expect fewer complications if you stop smoking 3-4 weeks before other types of surgeries, too.
If you smoke, your body has a harder time healing wounds. Smoking also weakens your immune system. This increases your chances of infection after surgery. The good news is that stopping smoking improves your body's ability to heal itself immediately.
- Within a day or two after you quit, your body can bring more oxygen to cells and your blood flow improves. This makes it easier for healing to occur.
- Three to six weeks after stopping, your body's defenses against bacterial infection improve. All these changes improve your chances for avoiding complications after surgery.
How can I quit smoking if I am scheduled for surgery?
If you are a smoker having surgery in the near future, this is a great opportunity to quit. Many people like you have used their surgery as a good time to quit.
There is no down-side to quitting before surgery. Quitting before surgery makes a difference in your body's ability to heal, even if it is only a day or two before.
There are lots of ways to go about quitting. If you quit using the best science-based methods like those offered here on EX, you are more likely to be able to quit for good.
You have the best chance of quitting if you use medications and create a plan to change your smoking behavior. Social support can also improve your chance of success, whether that is family members and friends, or the EX Community.
You can also learn more about quitting around your surgery by watching this video from Mayo Clinic.