New data on quitting smoking and surgical risks

New data on quitting smoking and surgical risks

Posted on June 20, 2013

New data suggests that one year after quitting smoking, your risks of a smoking-related surgical complication are the same as a non-smoker.  The study, published in JAMA Surgery, looked at over 600,000 adult patients between 2008 and 2009, and assessed the effects of current and past smoking (>1 year prior) on postoperative outcomes.

The authors tracked 30-day postoperative mortality, heart attack & stroke, DVT and pulmonary embolism, and respiratory events (pneumonia, unplanned intubation, or ventilator requirement >48 hours).Results:   If you were a “current smoker”, your odds of postoperative death were significantly increased, beginning at 10 pack-years of smoking exposure (= 1 pack a day x 10 years), and increasing from there, based on your total exposure.
Smoking cessation at least 1 year before major surgery was found to eliminate the increased risk of postoperative mortality, and also reduced the risks of perioperative heart attack, stroke, DVT and respiratory events.
Editor’s comment:  In plastic surgery, we know that smokers have a much higher risk of complication for the surgeries where large flaps of tissue are moved – like facelifts, tummy tucks and breast lifts.  The tissues can literally turn black and die…which is a bad thing.  While this study didn’t track flap necrosis as a complication, we usually recommend quitting smoking completely for at least 2 months before these kinds of surgeries.  But maybe, as this study shows, that time frame isn’t long enough – further research will have to be done to settle that question.

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