No Smoking Before Surgery: You'll Heal Faster

From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 10, 2002 -- Smokers, take note. If you're scheduled for surgery, it's best to kick the habit for at least two months beforehand. A new study finds you will have fewer complications, heal faster, and get out of the hospital sooner.

"Smoking is a risk factor for wound infection and cardiopulmonary complications in almost any type of surgery," says lead author Ann Moller, a researcher at Bispebjerg University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, in a news release.

Moller's study appears in this week's issue of The Lancet.

Her study focused on 120 patients scheduled for hip and knee replacement surgery. Six to eight weeks before the surgery date, each was randomly assigned to either a smoking cessation program or to the control group. The stop-smoking program involved counseling and nicotine replacement therapy, with a goal of either stopping smoking altogether or cutting numbers of cigarettes smoked by at least 50%.

The differences in postsurgical complications were "substantial," says Moller. Those who followed the smoking cessation program had significantly fewer problems, she reports.

Eighteen percent of those who quit smoking had postsurgical complications, while 52% of the control group had problems.

"Most significant" were reductions in wound-related complications. Five percent of the nonsmoking group had such problems, while 31% of the smokers did experience healing problems.

Cardiovascular complications were also reduced dramatically. None of the nonsmokers developed heart problems, compared with 10% of the control group.

The nonsmokers also had fewer second surgeries (4%), compared with 15% in the control group. Nonsmokers also went home two days earlier than the smokers.

Smoking affects heart and lung function as well as immunity, says Moller. "We recommend cessation of smoking by at least six weeks [before surgery]," she advises.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD
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