By now, everyone knows that smoking is bad for the body; even Big Tobacco is admitting it. Lung cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, and even dental problems have been attributed to prolonged smoking. Smoking has also been shown to cause a litany of cancers including lung, cervix, mouth, and stomach, along with a host of other cancers. Smoking introduces toxins into the respiratory system. Continued smoking introduces these toxins into the rest of the body’s systems including the endocrine, renal, and cardiovascular increasing the risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Because tobacco fundamentally changes the body’s ability to heal, recovery from surgery can get a little dicey.
According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), “Smokers have a lower survival rate after surgery compared to that of nonsmokers because of damage to the body’s host defenses, delayed wound healing, and reduced immune response. Smokers are at greater risk for complications following surgery, including wound infections, postoperative pneumonia, and other respiratory complications.” Basically, prolonged use of tobacco products can inhibit post-surgical recovery and might even lead to unforeseen complications such as infections, sepsis, and post-operative pneumonia. These complications will invariably lead to extended hospital stays and greater health care costs. In fact, nicotine addiction is the most common form of substance abuse in the United States.
Fortunately, there is a way around it. Studies have shown that quitting smoking even for a few weeks before surgery can drastically reduce recovery time and, in turn, decrease health costs. Of course, there are other benefits to smoking cessation as well including reduced:
- Risk of lung disease
- Respiratory symptoms including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
- Risk of developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Occurrences of infertility and erectile dysfunction.
There are many smoking cessation programs available for little or no cost. Some of these programs feature medication, both prescription and over the counter (OTC) and might include lozenges, gum, pills, or a combination thereof. Whatever the patient decides for the long term, quitting smoking a week or two before any surgical procedure can mitigate post-op complications as well as decrease health costs.