Clearing the Smoke: Understanding the Impacts of Smoking on Surgery and Recovery

Clearing the Smoke: Understanding the Impacts of Smoking on Surgery and Recovery

Insights, Risks, and Tips for Smokers Considering Surgery and Navigating the Healing Process


14 Apr 2023

Are you a Smoker Considering Undergoing Surgery?

The Importance of Understanding the Potential Impacts that Smoking can have on both your Surgical Outcomes and the Recovery Process.

Smoking is a well-known risk factor that can significantly affect the body's ability to heal, leading to increased complications, longer recovery times, and reduced surgical success rates. Continue reading to learn more as we will delve into the relationship between smoking and surgery, exploring the risks and challenges that smokers may face. Whether you're planning to undergo elective cosmetic surgery or have a necessary surgical procedure coming up, this article aims to provide valuable information to help you make informed decisions and take steps towards a successful surgical experience. So, let's dive in and shed light on the crucial connection between smoking and surgery.

Smoke-Free for Surgery

The Critical Importance of Quitting Smoking Before Your Operation

Quitting smoking prior to surgery is of paramount importance due to the detrimental effects of smoke on the body. Smoke contains over 4,000 constituents, including nicotine, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen cyanide, among others. Nicotine is known to constrict blood vessels, leading to reduced blood flow and impaired healing. Carbon monoxide reduces the delivery of oxygen to tissues, hindering the body's ability to repair and regenerate. Hydrogen cyanide disrupts the transport of oxygen in the bloodstream, further compromising the healing process.

In addition to these components, smoke also increases the risk of complications during and after surgery, such as infections, poor wound healing, and delayed recovery. Studies have shown that smokers are at higher risk of experiencing postoperative complications compared to non-smokers. Furthermore, smoking has been linked to longer hospital stays, increased healthcare costs, and higher rates of re-operations.


The Importance of Timing

Quitting smoking at least 4 weeks before an invasive procedure is crucial to minimise these risks and optimise surgical outcomes. It allows the body sufficient time to clear nicotine and other harmful substances from the system, improves liver function, boosts blood flow, enhances oxygen delivery to tissues, and reduces the risk of complications. Quitting smoking is a proactive step that can significantly benefit the success of surgery and promote better overall health.

Mitigating Risks - The Reasons Quitting Before Surgery is Essential to Reduce Complications for Smokers

Smokers are at high risk of developing complications and health issues after surgery. Read below for some of the main reasons that you need to quit smoking prior to surgery.



Smoking increases lung secretion, therefore the chances of getting pneumonia will be higher after general anaesthesia.


Smoking increases the chances of infection due to the direct changes on Neutrophils (cells in the blood that help with fighting infection).

Increases Inflammation

The chemicals in cigarettes increase swelling and inflammation throughout body.

Delay in Wound Healing

Smoking reduces oxygen delivery to the surgical wound; Oxygen is necessary throughout the healing process.

Impaired Lung Function

Smoking damages lung tissue and reduces lung function, which can increase the risk of respiratory complications during and after surgery, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or respiratory failure.

Poor Cardiovascular Health

Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, and poor circulation. These conditions can increase the risk of complications during surgery, including cardiovascular events, blood clots, and poor wound healing.

Anaesthetic Complications

Smoking can affect how the body processes anaesthesia, making it less effective and increasing the risk of complications during surgery, such as adverse reactions to anaesthesia or prolonged recovery time.

Long-Term Health Benefits

Quitting smoking before surgery not only reduces immediate risks but also has long-term health benefits, including improved lung function, reduced risk of infections and inflammation, better wound healing, and overall better surgical outcomes.

Managing Nicotine Withdrawal - Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Quitting smoking is no easy feat but there are strategies you can use to help ease withdrawal symptoms, Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), for example, can be a valuable tool to support quitting smoking before surgery. NRT includes various forms of nicotine replacement, such as gum, patches, lozenges, or medications, that can help manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings. NRT can be used to gradually wean off nicotine and reduce the urge to smoke, making the quitting process more manageable and successful. It's important to consult with your healthcare provider about the appropriate NRT options and usage.

Building a Support System

Getting Help to Quit Smoking

Having a support system in place can greatly increase the chances of successfully quitting smoking before surgery. Family, friends, or healthcare professionals can provide encouragement, motivation, and accountability. Smoking cessation programs, counselling services, and online resources are also available to provide additional support. Joining a support group, enlisting a "quit buddy," or seeking professional help can provide valuable guidance and assistance throughout the quitting process.


Healthy Habits for Successful Smoking Cessation and Surgery

Adopting healthy lifestyle changes can complement quitting smoking and optimise surgical outcomes. Regular exercise can improve lung function, promote healing, and reduce the risks of complications. A balanced diet rich in nutrients can support the body's immune system and promote healing. Staying adequately hydrated can help prevent complications such as blood clots. Incorporating these positive lifestyle changes can support the quitting process and overall health, contributing to a successful surgical outcome.

Understanding the Risks of Continued Smoking

The Dangers of Smoking on Surgical Outcomes and Recovery

Continuing to smoke before surgery can increase the risks of complications. Nicotine in cigarettes narrows blood vessels, reducing blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues, including the surgical site. This can result in delayed wound healing, increased risks of infection, and respiratory complications. Smoking also increases inflammation throughout the body, which can further exacerbate surgical risks. Understanding the detrimental effects of continued smoking on surgical outcomes can serve as a strong motivator to quit before surgery.


Staying Motivated to Quit Smoking Before Surgery - Tips and Strategies

Staying motivated during the quitting process is essential for success. Setting specific goals, such as a quit date, and tracking progress can provide a sense of accomplishment. Identifying triggers that make you want to smoke and developing coping strategies, such as finding alternative activities or distractions, can help manage cravings. Rewarding yourself for milestones reached, and focusing on the benefits of quitting, such as improved health and better surgical outcomes, can help maintain motivation and commitment to quitting.

Post-Surgery Care

Maintaining a Smoke-Free Lifestyle for Long-Term Health

After quitting smoking before surgery, it's important to follow up with your healthcare provider for postoperative care and regular check-ups to aid in the healing process. Monitoring progress, addressing any concerns, and seeking ongoing support can help maintain smoking cessation and ensure optimal surgical outcomes. Your healthcare provider can provide additional guidance on maintaining long-term smoking cessation and overall health.


Taking Charge of Your Health

Quitting smoking before surgery is a crucial step in reducing the risk of complications and promoting successful healing. From understanding the timeline for quitting to utilising nicotine replacement therapy, building a support system, making lifestyle changes, and being aware of the risks of continued smoking, there are multiple strategies to help you quit smoking and prepare for surgery. Remember to stay motivated, seek help when needed, and prioritise your health. By quitting smoking, you're not only improving your surgical outcomes but also taking a significant step towards better long-term health. Your surgical team and your body will thank you. So, take the first step today towards a smoke-free, healthier future. 

Want to find out more or book a consultation?

If you would like to book a consultation with Reza Alamouti, give us a call or send us an email below, and one of our team will be in touch soon. If this blog hasn’t quite answered all your questions, we’d be happy to help, and one of our friendly patient advisors Jayne or Eloise will be able to help. 

Fill Out the Form Below to Get in Touch

I hereby give consent for Dr. Reza Alamouti to hold my personal data for the purpose of contacting me regarding my enquiry. I may withdraw consent at any time by contacting Dr. Reza Alamouti.