Smoking Before Surgery: Is It OK?

Most people are aware of the fact that smoking may lead to respiratory and heart diseases, as well as cancer, but not many know that smoking is equally harmful for your muscles, bones, and joints. It is for this reason that you should quit smoking because it may produce poorer results after orthopedic surgery. There are higher chances of having a successful surgery when you quit smoking, and this also reduces recovery time. Keep reading to learn more about the negative effects of smoking and some ways to help things work in your favor.

Should I Stop Smoking Before Surgery?

Yes, you should. Research shows that smokers are more likely to deal with complications after surgery as compared to those who do not smoke. The risk of dying within 30 days of surgery is 40% higher for smokers than nonsmokers.

In a study conducted on 82,000 smokers who had a range of surgeries, such as breast surgeries, colon procedures, hysterectomy, and appendix removal, it was found that they are 57% more likely to have cardiac arrest as compared to nonsmokers. Similarly, there is 80% more risk of having a heart attack and 73% more risk of getting a stroke for smokers as compared to nonsmokers.

What's more, smokers are at a greater risk of contracting infections. Most of them even require being on mechanical ventilation soon after surgery. All this happens because the tobacco smoke attacks your body and increases inflammation as well. The inflammation leads to complications after surgery.

Why Should I Stop Smoking Before Surgery?

There are many reasons why it makes sense to stop smoking. Cigarettes are loaded with chemicals that can affect your body and interfere with its healing ability. Here are some other reasons:

  • Smoking and Anaesthesia: Your doctor will use an anesthetic drug to make the procedure less painful for you. That drug puts your body under stress and affects your ability to fight infections. If you smoke, it will be more difficult for your body to deal with the stress caused by anesthesia.
  • Reduced Oxygen Supply: The nicotine in cigarette increases in your blood pressure and heart rate. It makes your heart work harder for which it requires more oxygen. However, you are inhaling carbon monoxide through cigarette smoke, which makes matters worse. It means you may require extra oxygen during the procedure to prevent any damage to vital organs such as heart and brain. The situation becomes even critical when you already have heart disease. Therefore, it is important to stop smoking before surgery.
  • Blood Clots: Several chemicals in cigarette can lead to changes in your blood and make it thicker and stickier. This increases your risk of developing blood clots, which can be extremely dangerous in most cases.
  • Chest Complications: You may already have chest related problems due to smoking, and these problems can become worse after surgery. Cigarettes have chemicals that can destroy hair-like cilia in your lungs, which leads to a buildup of mucus in your lungs. Your airways may become clogged and air sacs in the lungs may collapse partially, which will make it difficult to breathe and cause several other complications.
  • Immune System Issues: Smoking has a direct impact on your immune system and affects its ability to fight infections. It means you are at a greater risk of contracting infections after surgery if you do not stop smoking before surgery. Wound infections are also common in smokers.
  • Impaired Healing: Smoking affects your natural healing ability and slows down the healing of skin, bones, and other body tissues. It means you will notice a considerable increase in recovery time if you do not stop smoking.
  • Drug Doses: You will be taking different drugs after your surgery, but chemicals in cigarettes affect your body's ability to break down those drugs. This means your doctor will have to give you a heavier dose of anesthetic during procedure and pain-relieving drugs after your surgery.

Making the Decision to Quit

Now it is quite clear that you should stop smoking before surgery to avoid dealing with complications. However, you may still be wondering exactly when you should stop smoking before going for your surgery. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions regarding smoking and surgery.

How Early Should I Stop Smoking Before Going for Surgery?

It is a good idea to stop smoking at least a couple of weeks before your surgery. It is even better to stop it at least 6 weeks before surgery. Your immune system and lungs will take about a couple of weeks to start to function properly after you abstain from smoking. Even if you fail to meet this deadline, you should stop it whenever you can. Quitting 12 hours before your surgery will still make a difference.

Useful Tips When Quitting Smoking

There are options available. You should talk to your doctor about different products and medications available to achieve this. However, you should keep the following tips in mind to help quit smoking:

  • Try to resist the urge for at least five minutes. After this, you will notice a considerable decrease in your urge to smoke and that will really help you stick to the plan.
  • Practice deep breathing and take a long breath when you feel tempted to smoke.
  • Drink water slowly and try to hold it in your mouth for a while to savor its taste.
  • Look for distractions and try something that makes you forget about smoking for a while.

When Can I Start Smoking Again After Surgery?

The best thing is to avoid smoking at all after your surgery. This will help shorten your recovery time and even give you a reason to quit smoking altogether. In case you really want to smoke again, be sure to wait for at least 4 weeks after surgery. You can still develop infections weeks after surgery, so you will be better off keeping away from smoking soon after surgery.

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