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Smoking with Surgery

Well this information isn’t super fun to read but if you are a smoker it is important to understand the facts and make informed health decisions if you are having surgery. There is no point spending the money and taking time off for cosmetic surgery if you are not going to give yourself the best chance of an uncomplicated recovery and uncompromised results.

Unfortunately, in addition to the well known risks of smoking, long-term smoking accelerates skin ageing and smokers also have an increased risk of serious complications during and after surgery.

So what are the risks?

Smoking decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood and also reduces blood flow in the small blood vessels that supply the skin. If a healing wound receives less oxygen it is more likely to break down and remain open. It is then more likely to become infected and this is a double whammy because even without wound breakdown, smoking independently increases the risk of developing a wound infection. These increased risks in smokers apply to all types of surgery but they are even greater when the skin has been elevated from the underlying tissues and/or closed with any tension. Breast lifts and reductions, tummy tucks and facelifts are examples of these types of procedures.

Smoking also increases the risks of developing blood clots (DVT) during surgery as well as the risks of anaesthetic complications.

Ideally smokers should aim to quit smoking at least 8 weeks prior to surgery.

Remember, the longer you stop smoking, the better. Stopping for two weeks before and two weeks after your surgery will make a big difference. However, if you have not quit, stopping smoking for at least 12 hours before surgery and for some days after will help.

After surgery

It is important you do not start smoking again, even if you only quit 12 hours before surgery. You do not want to take oxygen away from your healing wounds. If you are going to start smoking again, try not to do so for at least one week following your procedure.

How can I quit smoking before my surgery?

Many people have used an upcoming surgery as a reason to quit, even if just a day or two before the procedure. The surgery can be used as motivation to set a quit date!

Once a quit date is set, there are lots of ways to go about quitting, for example talking to a medical expert, hypnotherapy and getting social support from family and friends.

Nicotine replacement in the form of patches, lozenges or e-cigarettes can help some smokers to quit. Nicotine is the chemical in cigarettes that causes the small blood vessels to constrict and thus reduce blood flow. Studies to show that this adversely affects wound healing are lacking but common sense suggests that it may well do. It is best to quit before surgery without using a nicotine substitute but quitting using one is better than not quitting at all.

MINKST strongly recommends stopping smoking at least 8 weeks prior and 8 weeks post surgery. The good news is that imminent cosmetic surgery can be just the motivation you need to finally kick that habit! Quitting smoking is always a good idea, and your upcoming surgery can be just what the doctor ordered 🙂