4 Simple Steps to Increase the Chances of Quitting Smoking before Surgery

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

The 3 Week Diet

Doctors strongly recommend stopping smoking at least eight weeks before undergoing surgery. It’s because smokers are more likely to suffer from complications or die shortly after a surgical operation. If you are a smoker but needs to undergo surgery, this article discusses the four-part program that experts recommend to increase your chances of quitting.

Smoking and Surgery


Vast studies suggest a link between smoking and surgery risks. Basically, the body has to be in its best condition to prevent inflammation that may occur after a surgical procedure. Another problem with smoking is that cigarette contains carbon monoxide. This chemical combines with red blood cells, reducing their ability to transport oxygen to various parts of the body. Oxygen is vital in the healing and recovery of damaged tissues and preventing infections. And since smoking damages the lungs, it can make breathing difficult during and after surgery.

Smoking also puts a lot of stress in the heart during anesthesia, resulting to serious health complications. In a 2010 study performed by the researchers at Cleveland Clinic and presented to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, it was found that after surgery, smokers are 57% more likely to have cardiac arrest, 80% more likely to have a heart attack, and 73% more likely to have a stroke. The risk of pneumonia was also 50% higher among smokers than non-smokers. Furthermore, smoking increases the risk of wound infections. Patients who undergo plastic surgery or bone and joint surgery are less likely to have a successful operation.

The good news is that quitting smoking prior a surgery can significantly reduce your risk of these serious complications. But admit it – quitting smoking can be hard. Breaking free from nicotine addiction is stressful because often, you have to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.


Preoperative Smoking Cessation

Researchers from the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, evaluated a simple, practical and low-cost intervention designed to promote smoking cessation in 168 patients scheduled to undergo elective surgery. Some patients received such treatment for at least three weeks before their operation.


The intervention program is consists of the following:

  • Brief counseling by a nurse that takes less than five minutes
  • Brochures on smoking cessation
  • Referral to a quit-smoking telephone hotline
  • A six-week supply of nicotine patches, provided free of charge

The remaining patients received no specific quit-smoking intervention.

Even after taking into consideration other factors, those in the intervention group were four times more likely to stop smoking.

The overall health risk among patients who went through the quit-smoking program was 13 percent whilst those in the control group had 17 percent risk. They also had shorter time before discharge from the recovery room compared to those who didn’t quit.

The study shows that the simple quit smoking program could increase the number of patients who quit prior a surgery. Not only that. The researchers also found that it could increase the number of patients who remain cigarette-free one month later.


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