At various times during the 18 years that I have been in practice, there have been quite a number of occasions where I have upset one of my patients. Folks who smoke do not like to hear that they need to quit before having an elective surgery.
Well why is that necessary? Why has the American Society of Plastic Surgeons stated that members of the society should not perform non-emergency surgery on people who actively smoke?
It is no secret that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and heart disease, a fact that has been well established since the 1960’s. What most of my patients do not realize however is the effect that smoking (and nicotine in any other form) has on wound healing.
Nicotine constricts blood vessels, causing them to go into spasm. This diminishes blood supply to skin, muscle, fat and other tissues cutting off oxygen. Without oxygen, cells can die causing tissue loss and wound breakdown. Not a good outcome after an elective surgery!
Depending on the type of procedure planned, patients in our practice will need to refrain from smoking and all other forms of nicotine for four to eight weeks prior to the date of surgery. They also must not smoke for four to six weeks after the surgery.
I never tell the patients that quitting smoking is simple—just that it is necessary. Remember what Mark Twain once said, “Quitting smoking is easy…I’ve done it hundreds of times.” It is NEVER too late to quit.
As if you need another reason to throw away the tobacco, check out the effects of smoking on skin aging among this pair of twins.