Stop Smoking for Surgery

Why do doctors recommend quitting smoking before surgery? We look at the health risks and what you need to know.

Stop Smoking for Surgery

Written by Patient Care Team Lead, Jonathan , BN (Hons)

Medical Review by Chief Commercial Officer, Dr. Lizzie Tuckey , MBBS, BA

Published: Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Why you need to stop smoking before surgery

At Medbelle, we aim to provide world-class patient care and excellent results – but most important is that we take our patient’s health and safety seriously. Understand precisely why having surgery as a smoker is dangerous, discover answers to some common questions patients have, as well as some hopefully helpful ideas regarding what you can do to quit if you currently smoke, vape or use nicotine products.

The majority of cosmetic surgeons will refuse outright to operate on smokers. The major risks associated with smoking, even weeks before or after surgery, are well-known. For smokers who are considering cosmetic surgery, this rule can seem a little harsh but understanding why can help with quitting and moving forward with treatment.

Understanding the risks

Patients who smoke cigarettes, vapes, cigars or use tobacco with recreational drugs have a notably higher risk of developing complications post-surgery. These complications include infection, delayed healing or even heart and lung problems. Most people are well aware of the deleterious effects of smoking. The nicotine and carbon monoxide can interfere with how a patient’s body responds to surgery, both during and after. Smoking results in decreased oxygen levels and damages the lungs, meaning airflow into the body is compromised, and the likelihood of complications rises.

Smoking can also weaken the immune system, which impairs the healing process and makes infections more likely to develop. Finally, smoking can make the body’s response to anaesthesia more unpredictable and therefore more dangerous. All this can mean more extended hospital stays and a greater chance of readmission down the line.

If your doctor has been strongly encouraging you to quit smoking and using all nicotine products before surgery, it’s only because the benefits are high and not just in the short-term run-up to the surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long before surgery should I stop smoking?
What about e-cigarettes and vapes?
I only smoke very occasionally; is that still a problem?
My surgery is booked, but I’ve since smoked. What should I do?
Options to help you quit smoking

With the right support and a commitment to doing what’s best for your health, you can put yourself in the best possible position to receive high-quality cosmetic procedures. Though quitting the habit is difficult, some patients are encouraged by the prospect of not only getting to have the procedure they want but knowing that they’ve given themselves the gift of a healthier lifestyle in the process.

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