Your anaesthetist's top reasons to quit smoking

May 29, 2020

Stopping smoking at any time makes sense. Smoking is a leading cause of many chronic health conditions, and can take years off your life.

It may also be the reason that you and I meet, as we plan for your upcoming surgery.

As an anaesthetist at Fiona Stanley Hospital, responsible for keeping patients breathing while on the operating table, I see first-hand the impact of smoking on someone who is coming in for surgery.

Many people use surgery as motivation to quit. Having a definite date for an operation allows people to plan their quit attempt around something finite and tangible.

Beyond the significant benefits to your wellbeing, both health and financial, here are a few more reasons to quit – especially if you are likely to need surgery soon or in the future.

  1. Reduced risk of wound infections. Not smoking in the weeks before your surgery reduces your risk of wound infections. It does this by improving blood flow and oxygen delivery to healing tissues in your body. Wound infections keep you in hospital longer, and sometimes require antibiotics and further surgery.
  2. Reduced lung infections. Quitting allows the defensive lining of your lungs and airways to recover, reducing the risk of getting sick from pneumonia after your surgery.
  3. Reduced heart attacks and strokes. Smoking makes the blood sticky and more likely to clot. When you have surgery, the risk of blood clots increases due to the normal inflammatory processes. Add the two together, and your risk for heart attacks and strokes rises. Even quitting just a few weeks before surgery dramatically reduces this risk.
  4. Quicker discharge from hospital. Complications following surgery can lead to a longer stay in hospital, unplanned intensive care admission and more interventions. People who manage to quit before their procedures can avoid some of these complications and get home to their families sooner.
  5. Reduced suffering in hospital. Nicotine withdrawal is not fun. Many times after surgery, you will simply not be able to leave the hospital grounds for a cigarette. Planning a quit attempt and using nicotine replacement therapy before your surgery date with plenty of time to spare will reduce the unnecessary suffering of withdrawal, especially while you are already recovering from a surgery.
  6. Your loved ones! Outside of the hospital, not smoking protects the health of those close to you by reducing their exposure to second and third hand smoke. Smoke leaves chemicals on the skin and clothing which can cause harm. If you have kids, be an amazing role model and quit for good!