Can quitting smoking before surgery prevent complications?
Quitting smoking one or two months before planned surgery can significantly lower the risk of complications like poor wound healing. Intensive behavioral support (counseling) combined with nicotine replacement therapy can help you quit smoking.
Many people feel nervous before going in for surgery, and quitting smoking is probably the last thing on smokers’ minds – why put yourself through that too? But smokers are much more likely to have complications after surgery, especially poor wound healing.
There are probably several reasons why smoking could affect recovery from surgery: When you breathe in cigarette smoke, your blood absorbs carbon monoxide and nicotine, and the level of oxygen in your blood goes down. But oxygen is very important for the healing of wounds. Also, nicotine makes your heart work harder because it increases your blood pressure and heart rate. Since anesthetics and surgery already affect your circulation and make it harder for your body to get enough oxygen, the associated risks can be higher for people who smoke.
Quitting smoking even right before surgery can increase the amount of oxygen in your body. After 24 hours without smoking, nicotine and carbon monoxide are already gradually broken down in the blood. Your lung function starts improving after about two smoke-free months.
One thing that can make it easier to quit is nicotine replacement therapy (sometimes abbreviated as NRT). It relieves withdrawal symptoms after you stop smoking.
There is less nicotine in nicotine patches or gum than there is in cigarettes and – unlike cigarettes – they don’t increase the level of carbon monoxide in your body.