Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kicking the Smoking Habit Improves Surgical Outcomes

Going for surgery? If so, the scientific evidence is clear -- smoking has a direct negative impact on postoperative outcomes. Quitting smoking is one of the best things people can do to improve their chances of recovering from surgery without complications.

I've never been a smoker, but I have people in my family who smoke, and although its a sensitive subject, they've told me in the past that they are "too far along" as a smoker to quit now. They believe that their lungs are now permanently affected. But did you know that the body begins to heal within hours of quitting? Twelve hours after a person has given up the habit, his or her heart and lungs already begin to function better, as the nicotine and carbon monoxide levels start dropping. It takes less than a day for blood flow to improve, which reduces the likelihood for post-operative complications.

David O. Warner, M.D., is chair of the Smoking Cessation Initiative Task Force. He says, “Every year, we care for up to 10 million smokers in surgery. We see the immense toll that smoking takes on a person’s body, but we also witness the tremendous benefits patients who stop smoking before surgery experience in their healing process.”

Because patients are advised to abstain from smoking for as long as possible both before and after surgery, it represents a golden opportunity for people to take action to quit. When confronted with surgery, many patients decide to take stock of their lives and change their behaviors. This defining moment is a great opportunity to commit to quitting, as it will have a significant impact on one’s quality of life for years to come.

Besides, patients who quit smoking heal better! In one study, more than half of patients who continued smoking after surgery developed complications compared to less than 20 percent who quit.


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