The side effects of smoking have been well documented on the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems of the body including , but not inclusive to: lung cancer, increased chance of heart attack, emphysema, peripheral vascular disease, as well as other health effects. While it has been thought that smoking did have an effect on healing of bone, tendon and ligaments of the body, no studies have been performed to study the impact of smoking, until now. Three recent studies have been recently presented at scientific meeting have shown that there is an increase in complications in patients that continue to smoke after their surgery has been performed. The specific complication in bone surgery is non-union, particularly when your surgeon is trying to fuse a joint. Two of the studies looked at fusions (spinal and hindfoot) and showed a 12.1% and 11.5 % increase in non-union in smokers versus non-smokers. If the patient quit the day of the surgery the increase was only 2.9% and 4 % compared to non-smokers. In as study of rotator cuff repairs, there was a difference of 49% of good/excellent results between non-smokers and smokers, will the non-smokers doing considerably better.
Why does smoking effect the healing of your surgery? One explanation is the nicotine in your cigarettes. Nicotine, which has been shown to be a toxic and addictive substance, causes vasoconstriction of your blood vessels. What this means is that when nicotine is introduced into the body, your blood vessels close down or get smaller which decrease the amount of blood that is flowing to your surgery site. Because of this the amount of important nutrient and oxygen needed to heal your surgery is decreased, which increases the likelihood of complications in the healing process. Also nicotine affects the normal tissue metabolism around the surgery site.
What does this all mean? Bottom line is that if you smoke after your surgery there is an increased chance that your bones and soft tissue will not heal and that the potential for complications overall is higher. But if you stop smoking the day of surgery or before there is a significant decrease in complications of your surgery and can help the healing process as well as the other health benefits!