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Smoking and surgery

Many smokers depend on nicotine to boost mood and improve memory and concentration. Smoking also produces as sense of well-being for many people.

Quitting smoking and other tobacco products before surgery can improve your recovery and outcome after surgery.

Most people who successfully quit smoking have tried and failed multiple times. So don't give up. Learning from your past attempts can help you succeed.

There are many reasons to quit using tobacco

When used over a long period, tobacco and related chemicals, such as tar and nicotine, can increase your risk of numerous health problems, including heart and blood vessel problems, such as:

  • Blood clots and aneurysms in the brain, which can lead to strokes
  • Coronary artery disease, including chest pain (angina) and heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor blood supply to the legs
  • Problems with erections

Smoking can increase your risk for different types of cancer, including cancer of the:

  • Lungs
  • Mouth
  • Larynx
  • Esophagus
  • Bladder
  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Cervix

It increases your risk for lung problems, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and makes asthma harder to control.

Some smokers switch to smokeless tobacco instead of quitting tobacco completely. However, using smokeless tobacco still carries a number of health risks, such as:

  • Increased risk of mouth or nasal cancer
  • Gum problems, tooth wear, and cavities
  • Worsening high blood pressure and chest pain

Smoking and hip replacement surgery

After hip replacement surgery, there is an increased chance of blood clots forming in the legs. These clots may travel to the lungs. Smoking increases the chance of these clots forming.

Smoking decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches the cells in your surgical wound. As a result, your wound may heal more slowly and is more likely to become infected.

All smokers carry an increased risk for heart and lung problems. Even when your hip replacement surgery goes smoothly, smoking places more demand on your body, heart, and lungs.

Making the decision to quit

Most doctors will tell you to stop using cigarettes and tobacco at least 4 weeks before your surgery. Stretching the time between quitting smoking and your surgery out to at least 10 weeks can decrease your risk of problems even more. Like any addiction, quitting tobacco is difficult, especially if you are acting alone. But there are many ways to quit smoking and many resources to help you.

  • Family members, friends, and coworkers may be supportive or encouraging.
  • Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy and smoking cessation medications.
  • If you join smoking cessation programs, you have a much better chance of success. Such programs are offered by hospitals, health departments, community centers, and work sites.

Using nicotine gum around the time of surgery is not encouraged. The nicotine will still interfere with the healing of your surgical wound and have the same effect on your general health as using cigarettes and tobacco.

Update Date: 8/17/2012

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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