There seems to be a lot of talk in the media as of late regarding quitting smoking before having a cosmetic surgery procedure. This is definitely not old news, so I am not sure of the influx of articles surrounding the subject this week. It is definitely a serious concern regardless, so rehashing good advice is fine by me. I used to smoke. Yep, me! I started when I was about 14 or 15 and soon moved up to a pack a day of Marlboro Reds, up until I was 25. I started looking into breast augmentation at 25 and when I met with my doc, he said quit or no boobies. So I quit. And OMG it was difficult, so trust me when I say I can empathize with those of you who are trying to quit. But I guarantee you it will be the best thing you have ever done for yourself.
Why quit? Well other than the fact that it can kill you, make your life miserable in ways you don’t even realize until it is too late (because it can be so gradual), and cause all types of complications later on in life, it ruins your appearance. So if not for health, do it for vanity–you’re going to look like a leathery, wrinkled, stinky version of yourself if you don’t. But I am not here to preach, I am here to discuss its effects on your body’s ability to heal after surgery and during surgery while under anesthesia. many surgeon and anesthesiologists won’t even accept patients who continue to smoke before and after their surgeries.
Anesthesia and Smoking
Unfortunately, newer studies have shown that quitting less than two months beforehand is the minimum. Below that and you may be increasing your risks while under anesthesia. Smoking effects the oxygen saturation of your hemoglobin by increasing the amount of carbon monoxide attached to it, called carboxyhemoglobin. When there is more carbon monoxide, there is less room for oxygen. This, in turn, decreases the amount of oxygen-rich blood your skin receives (and actually increases the amount of oxygen your body requires). The effect is like a dangerous Catch 22, a smoker requires more oxygen but they actually get less, so a smoker’s heart works overtime.
Smoking increases mucous secretions in the lungs due to it being an irritant. This is evident in patients with gurgling, wet coughs–even if present just in the mornings. During gaseous sedation, risks can increase due to smoking’s effects on the lungs. This is risking your life. That feeling you get from smoking is NOT worth that.
Smoking and Wound Healing
Without essential oxygen your skin is less likely to heal as fast, look as good, and be able to fight infection as it would if it were running optimally. When your skin is injured, it needs increased circulation to help carry away toxins, deliver white blood cells and oxygen, etc. When your skin can’t get what it needs, cell die off is possible (necrosis), and infections can run rampant without the full armada of your skin’s natural bacteria-fighting process.
Wounds can heal with less quality scar tissue, causing your incision lines to be more red, ropey, and raised. Wound edges can heal more slowly causing wound separation.
So How Long Before Surgery Should You Quit?
According to new studies, 4 to 8 weeks beforehand is when a true reversal is apparent, with mucous secretions diminishing significantly after the 8 week mark. Although, as little as 24 hours can greatly reduce your risks in general. Anything less, can increase your risks dramatically. Best way to increase your chances of a less risky surgery other than not ever smoking? Stop as soon as you even THINK about having surgery. Quit today. I have been there and done it, it took me a while but I finally did it. You can too.
So How Long Do I Have to Quit For?
This shouldn’t even be a question in your mind. Now that you’ve made it over the physical withdrawals, why even succumb to the psychological withdrawals. It’s all ahead game after this. You can remain a non-smoker, you just have to not pick that cigarette up in the first place. It takes months for your body to heal after surgery and days for you to recover from the anesthesia alone. Being bedridden with lack of movement can put you at risk for clots already after plastic surgery, especially with liposuction, breast reduction and tummy tuck procedures. Why up that risk with continued smoking? Do yourself a favor, don’t start up again.
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