If you know you’re due to have surgery – whether for medical or cosmetic reasons – you should make every effort to stop smoking as soon as possible. You should aim to quit completely as soon as possible before the date of the operation.
The reasons why
Non-smokers experience fewer ill-effects during and after the anaesthetic and they often recover much more quickly than smokers. Their wounds are more likely to heal with no infections and with less visible scarring. If you have, for example, tummy tuck surgery in Manchester with Dr Gary Ross, he will recommend that you stop at least six weeks beforehand.
Your body, especially your lungs and heart, start to recover and repair themselves as soon as you quit smoking.
The more time that elapses between you quitting and having your surgery means more repair and recovery.
Smokers spend on average two days more in hospital after surgery than non-smokers.
If you carry on smoking
You’re at increased risks of chest infections, post-operative blood clots in the lungs or legs and your wounds will heal much more slowly. All this puts you at more risk of infections.
You have a 30% chance of post-op breathing and/or heart problems.
You’re 12 times more likely to have wound complications, including infections and ruptures.
Why smoking is bad for you
Your lungs are lined with millions of cilia – tiny hair-like projections that wave about and move mucus up from the lungs and air passages. Smoking temporarily paralyses these cilia so they can’t do their job of removing mucus, dust and other foreign bodies. This makes smokers much more prone to infections, especially after a general anaesthetic.
The effects of nicotine
Nicotine raises the heart rate and blood pressure – during an operation, when you’re under an anaesthetic, it’s crucial that heart rate and blood pressure are maintained within strict parameters.
Increased risk of blood clots
If you smoke your blood will have high levels of compounds that can cause it to clot faster than a non-smoker’s blood. This increases the risk of post-op blood clots in the lungs and lower legs; these clots can be fatal.
Carbon monoxide (CO2) is a toxic gas inhaled with cigarette smoke. It reduces the ability of your blood to carry oxygen, which in turn can increase the risk of heart attacks, gastric ulcers and strokes. While you’re under an anaesthetic, your blood may carry less oxygen than a non-smoker, which can starve the heart and brain. Post-operatively, lower levels of oxygen can delay healing and make you more prone to infections.
What you need to do
Ideally, you should give up as soon as you know you’re having surgery. If you feel you can quit quickly and cleanly, then do so; if not, see your GP or practice nurse for help with making a managed withdrawal. You may, if you need, use nicotine replacement therapy, but remember that nicotine on its own will affect your surgery and recovery.
Your safest option both for your operation and for your long-term health is to quit smoking for good – you can do it!