Smoking and Surgery: Why You Shouldn't Light Up

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Nearly 40 million Americans, or 1 in 6 people, actively smoke cigarettes. It is common knowledge that smokers are more likely than non smokers to have heart and lung disease, strokes, and lung cancer. But did you know that those who smoke are also more likely to have problems during and after their surgery than those who don’t smoke?

During surgery, smokers can have breathing issues because of an increase in secretions caused by smoking and from underlying lung damage from smoking. Smokers are also more likely to have heart problems, including arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) and heart attacks during major surgeries.

In the recovery phase, active smokers have more infections than non smokers. This includes lung infections, like pneumonia, and wound infections. Smokers are more likely to have problems healing their wounds than nonsmokers.

Wound healing problems may include:

  • Wound dehiscence, where the wound splits open
  • Skin necrosis, where the skin turns black
  • Infection
  • Loss of a reconstructed breast, when a flap’s blood supply dies

The known relationship between smoking and worse plastic surgery outcomes is so strong that many plastic surgeons will limit the types of breast reconstruction they perform in patients who smoke.

The good news is: stopping smoking 3-4 weeks before surgery can reverse the risk of many of these complications! Talk with your health care professional about the options available to you to help you quit smoking. There are many resources available to people who are thinking about or ready to quit smoking. Check out the links below to get more information:

Centers for Disease Control: How to Quit
https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/index.htm

American College of Surgeons: Quit Smoking Before Your Surgery
https://www.facs.org/education/patient-education/patient-resources/prepare/quit-smoking

Telephone Counseling:
1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669)