By now, most of us know the long-term benefits of giving up cigarettes: Quitting smoking adds years to a life; on average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers. The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is now giving smokers even more reasons to quit. There is clear scientific evidence that smoking has a direct negative impact on postoperative outcomes. The best thing people can do to improve their chances of recovering from surgery without complications is to quit smoking, according to these latest findings.
“Anesthesiologists are the heart and lung specialists in the operating room, making sure our patients’ vital functions are working properly,” said David O. Warner, M.D., chair of the ASA Smoking Cessation Initiative Task Force. “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 that patients who stop smoking before surgery experience in their healing process.”
Patients are advised to abstain from smoking for as long as possible both before and after surgery, providing them a great opportunity to kick the habit completely. Surgery also has a way of helping patients take stock of their lives and come to terms with their behaviors. Quitting before surgery can have a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life for years to come.
Here are some of the reasons the ASA gives for why people undergoing surgery should quit smoking:
Patients who quit smoking heal better
Complications such as infections in the surgical incision are increased by continued smoking. In one study, more than half of the patients who continued smoking after surgery developed complications, compared with less than 20 percent of those who quit. Fewer complications means less time in the hospital for those who have quit.
Smokers have an increased chance of complications, including healing problems, wound infections, lung problems, coughing and pneumonia, heart problems and heart attacks.
Hospitals are smoke free
It is difficult to smoke once admitted to the hospital. Smokers can take advantage of this roadblock, and use it as a first step to quitting. Hospitals are filled with resources to help people quit smoking, including counselors.
The body begins to heal within hours of quitting
Although some people say there is no point in quitting for surgery because the damage has already been done, twelve hours after a person has given up smoking, his or her heart and lungs begin to function better. Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels start dropping almost immediately when a person stops smoking. It takes less than a day for blood flow to improve. The likelihood of post-operative complications is easily reduced.
The ASA recommends patients abstain from smoking for as long as possible before and after surgery, but even quitting for a brief period is still beneficial.
Help is always available
Whether someone is preparing for surgery or just thinking about quitting, free help is always available. By calling 1-800-QuitNow, smokers connect with trained specialists who provide advice and a customized plan to help them quit. Smokers who attempt to quit without treatment typically relapse within the first eight days and only 4-7 percent are likely to be successful. Services such as 1-800-QuitNow can double their chances of success.
Other places to get help: www.smokefree.gov, www.cancer.org, insurance companies, Blue Cross Blue Shield, employer sponsored programs, NOW 1-800-QUIT.