How Smoking and Alcohol Use Affects Surgery

The Truth About Your Vices and Their Surgical Influence

It’s no secret that smoking and drinking frequently can cause serious health problems, from lung cancer to liver disease. However, when getting ready for a surgical procedure, smoking and alcohol consumption become even more harmful.

 

Drinking and smoking before surgery: why does it matter?

You’ve probably heard a thousand times how harmful tobacco and alcohol are for your body. When you are having surgery, the adverse effects from smoking and drinking are amplified.

Regardless of the type of surgery, your overall health will impact the outcome of your procedure and recovery. So, thinking about alcohol and tobacco use before surgery matters for one main reason: the healthier you are at the time of surgery, the better the procedure will go and the faster you’ll heal.

 

Top reasons to stop smoking and drinking alcohol before surgery

…And during recovery. If you are looking for specific reasons, here’s a list of things to consider before having that drink or lighting up that cigarette as your surgery approaches. According to our board-certified plastic surgeons, they always encourage their patients to stop smoking before surgery because:

  • Smoking prevents proper healing. Every time you inhale smoke, the hemoglobin (molecules responsible for transporting oxygen throughout your body) is unable to fully supply your body with oxygen. The lack of oxygen makes your body less efficient and weaker to repair its wounds and regenerate new tissue.
  • Smoking increases your risk of developing blood clots. Smoking thickens your blood, making it harder for the blood to travel, particularly to your extremities. Thicker blood means a higher risk of developing blood clots in your legs, which can then travel to other parts,  putting you at risk of having a stroke, heart attack or embolism.
  • Smoking makes you susceptible to infection. Smoking weakens the neutrophils in your blood, the cells that help fight infections. If your body is depleted of its infection-fighting qualities, you can be twice as likely to get an infection after surgery when compared to a non-smoker.

 

As for drinking, here are the top reasons VIDA surgeons advise their patients to stop drinking before surgery and during recovery.

  • Alcohol thins your blood. While smoke thickens it, alcohol has the opposite effect. Thinner blood puts you at a higher risk of excessive bleeding during surgery.
  • Alcohol is dehydrating. The dehydration becomes apparent in your skin, increasing your chances of developing scars and making it harder for the surgeon to suture the skin properly.
  • Alcohol interferes with medications and anesthetics. Alcohol can interfere in very dangerous (life-threatening) ways during surgery because it inhibits the effect of anesthesia, affecting the dosage you need. After surgery, you should also avoid drinking because you’ll need pain medication. Pain medications, even OTC, can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol.

 

One more reason to reconsider smoking and alcohol use before surgery:

  • Smoking and alcohol can increase inflammation, making recovery slower and more painful. For their part, cigarettes contain hundreds of chemicals that increase inflammation and swelling throughout your body. As alcohol dehydrates your body, this will promote swelling and overall discomfort. Being smoke and alcohol-free during the initial stages of recovery will make it easier for your body to heal and recuperate.

 

When is the best time to stop smoking or drinking alcohol before surgery

The ideal scenario is for patients to stop smoking 4 weeks before surgery and to refrain from drinking 2 to 7 days prior. This time frame gives the body enough time to reset and be healthier for the surgery. However, if your surgery is approaching, our surgeons remind us: it’s never too late to quit smoking and drinking. The sooner you do, the better. Even 24 hours before surgery can have amazing health benefits to your health on surgery day.

If you’d like to learn more about drinking and smoking before surgery, or how to prepare for surgery in general, contact VIDA Wellness and Beauty at 1(619) 738-2144. Schedule a one-on-one consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon and learn how to be better prepared for your surgery and recovery!