Smoking increases risk of complications after surgery

Smoking is associated with an increased risk of complications after surgery. Smoking has many negative effects on the body’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems, wound healing, and overall immune function, which then can contribute to a higher likelihood of complications after surgery.

Some of the potential complications associated with smoking before surgery include:

Delayed Wound Healing: The Nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes can decrease oxygen levels. Smoking can impair blood flow and reduce oxygen delivery to tissues, slowing down the healing process after surgery.

Increased Risk of Infection: Smoking compromises the immune system's ability to fight off infections.patient lying in hospital bed

Poor Respiratory Function: Smoking damages the lungs and respiratory system, leading to reduced lung function. This impairment in respiratory function can increase the risk of respiratory complications after surgery, such as pneumonia or a collapsed lung.

Cardiovascular Complications: Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, and individuals who smoke are at a higher risk of perioperative cardiovascular complications, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Blood Clot Formation: Smoking can increase the risk of blood clot formation, which is a concern during surgery. Blood clots can lead to serious complications, including pulmonary embolism.

Anaesthetic Complications: Smoking can affect the metabolism and clearance of certain medications, including anaesthetics. This can impact the management of anaesthesia during surgery. The body is less able to cope with the stress caused by anaesthesia.

Overall Increased Risk of Complications: Studies have shown that smokers have an overall increased risk of surgical complications compared to non-smokers. Complications may include a longer hospital stay, readmission to the hospital, and a higher likelihood of requiring intensive care.

It's important for individuals who smoke to discuss their smoking history with their healthcare providers before undergoing surgery.

Some of these complications can be life threatening. Healthcare professionals may offer support and resources to help individuals quit smoking before surgery, which can lead to better surgical outcomes and overall health.

Quitting smoking well in advance of surgery can significantly reduce the associated risks and improve overall postoperative recovery. It’s recommended to stop 8 weeks before surgery. The longer you stop smoking, the better. However, if you have not quit, stopping smoking for at least 24 hours before surgery will help.

In addition to refraining from personal smoking, individuals are generally advised to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke, as it can also have negative effects on healing and recovery. Second-hand smoking means breathing in smoke from other people smoking nearby.

After surgery, it is generally advised to continue abstaining from smoking during the immediate postoperative period. This is particularly crucial during the initial stages of wound healing and recovery.

For help about quitting smoking talk to your GP or Quitline (13 78 48) is a confidential, free service for people who want to quit smoking in Australia.

If you wish to receive regular information, resources, reassurance and inspiration for up-to-date care that is safe and sound and in line with the latest research, please subscribe to my blog via the form above, or like Dr Andreas Obermair on Facebook.

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