Smoking Effects After Surgery

According to CDC, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death and smokers often die 10 years earlier
than nonsmokers. Smoking also affects your body’s ability to recover after a surgical procedure. In fact, quitting before your procedure and not smoking afterward can significantly increase your chances of healing faster. It allows more oxygen to reach your cells and increases blood flow which helps your body heal. Dr. Kevin O’Neill, an OrthoIndy spine surgeon, knows just how big of an impact smoking can have on the recovery process.

”Many of the negative effects of smoking on patients undergoing surgery can be avoided by stopping smoking
prior to surgery, staying away from cigarettes during the recovery period and ideally – quitting forever,” said Dr. O’Neill.
“Stopping well before surgery allows your body time to heal from the damage smoking causes, which can lower the risks
of complications.”

Smoking Effects After Surgery

  • Increased chance of having complications such as heart attack, stroke, sepsis or shock, compared to nonsmokers
  • Surgical wounds are less likely to heal properly and have a higher risk of infection
  • Bones will take longer to heal than a non-smoker
  • Weakens immune system


Smoking significantly slows down the healing process after surgery. Bones need nutrients in order to heal. Nicotine decreases the size of the blood vessels which results in fewer nutrients reaching the bone. Therefore, it takes longer for the bone to heal than a non-smoker. It’s also important to be mindful to stop smoking if your child has surgery as it can affect their recovery process as well.

“The most obvious complication after surgery is related to lung function, such as an increased risk of pneumonia. But
smoking also increases the risk of a poor outcome from the surgery itself,” said Dr. O’Neill. “Smoking impairs the formation of small blood vessels and therefore impairs the ability to heal. This means that a patient is at higher risk of wound complication and infection. In orthopedic surgery, this means that the bones may not heal. Any of these complications may then require even further surgery.”

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