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Need an Operation? Better Quit Smoking

posted 11:22 PM EST, Sun September 06, 2009
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Need an Operation? Better Quit Smoking © Photo Credit: Photographer Padawan

Smokers have twice the likelihood of wound healing complications after surgery, but those who abstain from tobacco for 4 weeks prior to an operation can eliminate this elevated risk.

Researchers at the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) say that quitting smoking before going under the knife greatly reduces the chances of wound healing complications – one of the most common types of post surgical complications.

The researchers analyzed data to compare the surgical outcomes of smokers and ex-smokers. The ex-smokers studied used nicotine replacement delivery systems (nicotine gum or the nicotine patch) for 4 weeks prior to an operation to quit smoking.

They found that those who used nicotine replacement therapy had half the instances of poor wound healing, just 14% occurrence, compared to 28% occurrence amongst the smoking group.

The institute’s director, Professor Peter Sawicki, explained why smokers risk post surgery complications, saying, "Anaesthetics and surgery put a strain on the body's oxygen supply as it is. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that is available in the blood even more, making it more difficult for wounds to heal – a process which requires oxygen."

Visit the IQWiG website for more information.

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