Plastic Surgery May Helps Smokers Quit the Habit

Plastic surgery may not just make you look good – it may make you healthier, too.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, say plastic surgery can help people stop smoking. Plastic surgeons commonly ask their patients to stop smoking for at least two weeks before having surgery. The American Society of Anesthesiologists also recommends individuals quit smoking before any surgical procedure.
Stop Smoking to Prevent Complications After Surgery
The reason behind the request is to reduce the risk of complications during and after surgery.
Dr. Gregory W. Chernoff, M.D., F.R.C.S., a triple board-certified plastic surgeon, makes a point of going over the risks of smoking before procedures with his patients.
“Smoking is dangerous to a person’s overall health. It increases the blood pressure, which can affect anesthesia during surgery,” Chernoff said.
Smoking also increases a patient’s chance of developing blood clots, which can lead to stroke, heart attack and death.
Smoking Study Results
In the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, study, a group of 85 smokers who were asked to quit smoking for two weeks before their plastic surgery procedure were given a follow-up survey five years later to see if their smoking habits changed after their surgery.
Forty-seven individuals responded to the survey. The majority of respondents had reduced their use of cigarettes, and 70 percent had quit smoking entirely during the two-week period before their plastic surgery procedure.
Those who quit smoking or decreased how frequently they smoked during the recommended two-week period stated they did so after being made aware of the risks of complications caused by smoking before surgery.
The study also found that 40 percent of patients who responded to the questionnaire no longer smoked every day.
Twenty-five percent of respondents had stopped smoking entirely since the two-week period before having plastic surgery.
Of the 85 total study participants, 50 percent did not heed warnings given by their plastic surgeon and continued to smoke during the two weeks before their plastic surgery procedure.
Ten percent of study participants who smoked after their plastic surgery developed complications after their procedures.
“Smoking after a plastic surgery procedure delays healing, which leaves patients at risk of infection,” Chernoff said.
Infections can compromise results and leave patients unhappy with their new appearance.
Plastic surgeons are not the only doctors asking patients to give up cigarettes before surgery. In recent years, some surgeons have refused to operate on patients who did not put down their cigarette habit before surgery.
In February 2017, the Charlotte Observer reported that an orthopedic surgeon denied a man who had smoked for 35 years a back surgery because he could not quit smoking before his procedure.
A study published in the journal Global Spine Health found that smokers who underwent joint replacement surgery had an 80 percent greater risk of needing a repeat surgery than nonsmokers because of infection and other complications.
Other Habits to Halt Before Surgery
Smoking is not the only habit plastic surgeons recommend putting on hold before undergoing surgery. The use of nicotine in any form, including patches, gums, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes, can also cause the blood vessels to constrict, which limits the blood flow and oxygen necessary for healing incisions.
“Not only do slow-healing wounds have a greater risk of developing an infection, but they also are at risk of scarring badly,” Chernoff said.
Chernoff also recommends patients stop drinking alcohol for a two-week period before having plastic surgery.
“Alcohol can also cause problems such as excessive bleeding during and after surgery,” Chernoff said.
A study by the Charite University Hospital in Berlin found that patients who drink four or more alcoholic beverages per day for an extended period have an increased risk of developing pneumonia.
The Guardian. Doctors warn of alcohol risk to patients facing surgery. 3 February 2008.
The Charlotte Observer. Doctors are refusing to operate on smokers in some cases. Here’s why the trend will grow. 22 February 2017.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Cosmetic Surgery May Help Patients Quit Smoking. ASPS. 29 August 2017.