Smoking and Healing

November 1, 2011
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It is important to understand the adverse effects of smoking tobacco in regards to the recovery and outcome of a surgical procedure. Smoking tobacco introduces three main substances that may lead to a longer recovery or undesired outcome.

1. Nicotene – Nicotene constricts blood vessels, leading to decreased blood flow

2. Carbon Monoxide – Carbon Monoxide decreases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry

3. Hydrogen Cyanide – Cyanide decreases your cell’s ability to make energy to repair itself.

When combined together, these substances substantially slow the healing process and allow complications to occur. Patients who continue to smoke prior to and after surgery have increased risk of their surgical wound opening back up, leading to infection and slowed healing of the bone and skin.

Although complete cessation of smoking would be the ideal approach, this often is not a realistic option.

However, if a patient managed to stop smoking a couple weeks before surgery, and maintained that during the recovery period, the healing of skin and bone would be dramatically increased. When it comes to bone and skin healing, ceasing to smoke can have immediate benefits. Although the long term effects of smoking remain, removal of nicotine and carbon monoxide will intensely improve the flow of oxygen to the tissues. Even if a patient only was able to stop smoking for a few days before and after, studies show patients are more likely to heal faster without complication than patients who continued to smoke.

In you are currently preparing to undergo a foot or ankle surgical procedure, please carefully consider the benefits of avoiding smoking leading up to your surgery date. If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to discuss them with your podiatrist during your next office visit.

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