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St. Luke's B.E.S.T.

Smoking and Surgery

Header Breathe

If You Smoke, Now Is The Time To Quit.

Smoking can be detrimental to your health in ways that go beyond disease, such as how your body handles surgery. Smoking increases the mucus in your airways and decreases your ability to fight infections. The nicotine from cigarettes can increase your blood pressure; heart rate and risk of irregular heartbeats. The carbon dioxide in cigarettes decreases the amount of oxygen in your blood.

  • Your body needs a healthy supply of oxygen to help heal after surgery. When you smoke, the molecules that transport oxygen throughout your body, called hemoglobin, are unable to carry the needed amount of oxygen to your organs and tissues. As a result, your body becomes deprived of the oxygen it needs to repair wounds and build healthy new tissue. Smoking also causes narrowing of the blood vessels, which can prevent blood, oxygen and nutrients from reaching your healing wound.
  • Smoking thickens your blood which makes it more difficult for blood to travel through your blood vessels. Thickened blood raises your risk of developing a blood clot in your legs. If a blood clot travels from your legs to another part of your body, it could cause a heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in your lungs).
  • Smoking raises your risk of infection. Your blood contains cells called neutrophils that help fight infection. Smoking causes these cells to lose some of their infection-fighting power, which can double your chances of getting an infection after surgery compared to a non-smoker. If you develop an infection, it will not only slow your recovery, but you may need to take antibiotics, have another surgery, or spend more time in the hospital.
  • Smoking increases inflammation and sometimes pain. The chemicals found in cigarettes can increase the amount of inflammation, or swelling, throughout your body. After surgery, this extra swelling can cause smokers to experience more pain than non-smokers.

Knowing this doesn’t make it easier to quit. You may have tried to quit in the past and gone back to smoking or chewing tobacco. We understand this and can support you through a plan for quitting now. Once a quit data is set, review your options and find the best one that will work for you. Quitting even 4-6 weeks before your surgery and staying smoke free 4 weeks afterwards can reduce the risk of complications (such as heart attack, pneumonia, wound infection, breathing problems, stroke) and help your body heal better and faster after your operation.