Study Reviews Risk of Surgical Complications Due to Smoking

Posted on March 18, 2011 | by

British researchers found in a recent study that quitting smoking in the two months before surgery didn’t affect the rate of complications after an operation.

However, it has long been known that cigarette smoking increases the risk of postoperative complications across a broad spectrum of surgical procedures. “Compared with nonsmokers, smokers who undergo surgery have longer hospital stays, higher risk of readmission, are more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit, and have an increased risk of in-hospital mortality,” according to the study authors.

But no one is certain how long it takes to reap the postoperative benefits of quitting smoking. Some experts have even feared that quitting smoking might contribute to post-op complications. As the study authors note, this concern has been in the air since 1989, when an article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings hinted that recent quitters may be more likely to experience lung problems after surgery.

There was no statistical analysis in the article and the sample size (39 people) was small. Over time, however, this conclusion took on the mantle of fact, with a number of sources advising that smokers not quit within 8 weeks before surgery. This latest study, conducted by Katie Myers and her colleagues at Queen Mary University of London, challenges the old dogma by reviewing nine previous studies and finding no evidence of harm.

The authors of the study warn that these results are tentative, and call for further research on the effects of only a few days’ abstinence from smoking. Nonetheless, if you’re a smoker and looking at a facelift, tummy tuck, or breast augmentation in the in the near future, your plastic surgeon will probably tell you to quit as soon as possible.