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Jun 14, 2011

Quitting Smoking Before Surgery: More Harm Than Good?

Smoking cessation is beneficial to health, even in weeks before surgery.

It is well documented that being a smoker significantly increases risk for medical complications after surgery. That’s why healthcare providers recommend quitting smoking to patients, particularly if they will be undergoing surgery in the near future. Not only does stopping smoking improve overall health but it also decreases risk for postoperative complications. However, a gray area has developed around quitting smoking before surgery due to findings that stopping smoking too close to a surgery — within a few weeks — may actually increase risk for complications.

To help get to the bottom of this issue, researchers recently conducted a study to determine the effects of quitting smoking within 8 weeks of surgery. They analyzed findings from nine different studies and actually found that not only are there no detrimental effects of quitting within 8 weeks of surgery, it may even be beneficial in comparison with continuing to smoke. While additional research is needed to corroborate these findings, results are encouraging.

Based on this study, doctors can feel confident in recommending smoking cessation to patients, regardless of timing before surgery. Data suggesting a risk associated with quitting smoking close to surgery is unreliable, and this recent study reinforces what researchers have found all along — that quitting smoking, no matter when, is always beneficial to your health. 

Questions for You to Consider

  • When is the best time to quit smoking before surgery?

  • Although results from the study above did not show any risk in quitting smoking close to the date of surgery, the earlier a patient can stop smoking before surgery, the better. Research has shown significant benefits to quitting smoking before surgery, but these benefits have been found in patients that quit early on, further from their surgery date.
  • What complications are smokers most at risk for following surgery?

  • Smoking significantly increases risk for postoperative complications, such as pneumonia, wound infections and pulmonary complications, including heart attack and stroke. These complications can be extremely serious and often fatal.


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Quitting Smoking Before Surgery: More Harm Than Good?

Smoking cessation is beneficial to health, even in weeks before surgery.