Four Weeks Make the Difference

Photo: A calendar

Who stops smoking four weeks
before surgery has less
complications afterwards; © SXC

Smokers who undergo surgery suffer complications, such as wound infections and poorly healing wounds, more often than non-smokers. Research has shown that the risk of complications is reduced if the patient stops smoking ahead of the operation, but it is unclear how long beforehand it has to happen.

David Lindström works as a surgeon at the Stockholm South General Hospital. He now shows in his doctoral thesis that quitting tobacco use as late as four weeks prior to an operation is effective. His study involved 117 patients, half of whom were offered a chance to take part in a stop smoking programme four weeks before surgery. The patients in the control group went on to have roughly twice the number of complications as the programme patients.

“The complications are unpleasant for the patients and expensive for the health services,” says Lindström. “Since help with quitting tobacco use is both effective and cheap compared with other preventative measures, it should always be offered as an option before an operation.”

Lindström’s thesis shows that relatively many of the patients who took part in the stop smoking programme managed to actually quit their habit, both in the short and long terms. Approximately 58 per cent of the patients who received help stopped smoking before their operations, and 33 per cent were still non-smokers one year later. “This is a very good result when you compare with other quit smoking programmes,” says Lindström. “It seems as if surgery is a motivation-boosting factor for people who are already trying to kick the habit.”; Source: Karolinska Institutet