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12.06.07

Smoking and Plastic Surgery

Over 400,000 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses. Most smokers don’t realize the hazards smoking causes, especially when it comes to plastic surgery. Regular smokers, those exposed to second hand smoke and “social” smokers are all at high risk if they decide to undergo plastic surgery.
 
When it comes to smokers, plastic surgeons limit the amount of procedures they perform. In fact, according to a 2002 study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), “Eighty-eight percent of plastic surgeons surveyed said they would perform procedures that did not involve skin flaps or skin separation such as nose reshaping, breast augmentation or liposuction.” This is because smoking increases risks of pulmonary complications and can slow down the process of wound healing, which may negatively affect the outcome of a surgery. Some plastic surgeons change their technique in order to successfully perform a procedure.
 
Studies show that smokers who undergo surgery requiring skin flaps are 12 times more likely than non smokers to suffer healing problems. In other words, breast reductions and tummy tucks create skin flaps and therefore put a patient at risk for healing complications. This is because the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke reduces the ability of blood to carry oxygen, which is essential for wound healing.
 
Tobacco smoke contains nicotine and carbon monoxide, which are the two most harmful substances that affect wound healing. These 2 substances, along with the rest of the 3, 800 unidentified substances found in tobacco smoke can impair healing and seriously limit the final outcome of the procedure.
 
Smoking also comes in the way of anesthesia and a body’s ability to fight infection. Studies show that smokers often develop harsh coughs during anesthesia. Smoking weakens the lungs and airways, affects blood vessels, affects the heart, elevates heart rates and raises blood pressure. Patients who smoke exhibit blood clotting, which also affects healing. Smokers also experience longer bruising periods which last a couple months, while non smokers experience bruising for only a couple of weeks.
 
Since smoking raises the risk of complications, some plastic surgeons require their patients to quit smoking for at least 2 weeks before the surgery. Some surgeons cancel the scheduled surgery if their patients have not followed through with the requirement. Many patients take advantage of the requirement and decide to quit smoking altogether.
 
Patients who smoke should consult a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon for advice. Board Certified Plastic Surgeons understand these issues and are willing to help you reach optimum results. 
 
1800mySurgeon is a free consumer service dedicated to patients interested in surgery. The service helps patients find qualified Board-Certified Surgeons in their area, as well as information on a surgeon’s board records, credentials, experiences and specialty areas. Call our patient coordinators toll free at 1-800-my-Surgeon (1-800-697-8743) or visit our website at 1800mySurgeon to learn more about surgery and access patient resources.

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