Smoking before cosmetic surgery: Things to be aware of

smoking before cosmetic surgery

A facelift, tummy tuck, breast reduction or any cosmetic surgery procedure is a significant investment of time and money, so it makes sense to protect that investment.

Every patient at the Karidis Clinic is advised to stop smoking before their operation and afterwards. If you are wondering, why can’t you smoke before surgery, here are all the reasons you should quit.

How can quitting help lower your chances of complications?

There is a myriad of complication-related reasons why you should quit smoking before cosmetic surgery:

  1. Smoking increases the risk of general anaesthesia as your lung capacity is affected.
  2. It also compromises your heart function, meaning a significant risk of heart problems either during or after surgery.
  3. Smoking will delay your healing: nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, restricting blood flow and reducing the essential nutrients required for wound healing and scar formation reaching the damaged tissue.
  4. Your body needs a healthy supply of oxygen after surgery, transported by haemoglobin molecules in the bloodstream. The amount of oxygenated blood being supplied to where it’s needed is reduced and the body finds it difficult to build healthy new tissue.
  5. Slower wound healing means that you are more vulnerable to infections. Smoking can also affect the action of medications required to treat those infections.
  6. Your risk of blood clots or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is also elevated due to smoking, as constricted vessels make it more difficult for your blood to circulate. If a blood clot travels from the legs to another part of the body, it can result in a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot in the lungs.
  7. If you smoke before or after surgery, you have an increased risk of skin necrosis or tissue ischemia, resulting in the skin dying. For example, this could result in nipples discolouring before falling off after cosmetic breast surgery or the loss of tummy skin after a tummy tuck.

As well as the physical complications, smoking can affect your results. Smoking impedes collagen production, and your skin will not be as resilient. For example, after a breast augmentation, you have an increased risk of your breast implants ‘bottoming out’. If you have undergone fat transfer to the breasts, body or face, you will likely have less fat survive the grafting process.

As well as the effect of nicotine, the many thousands of toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke destroy collagen and elastin, the components of the skin that give it elasticity and firmness. It’s estimated that smoking is as bad as sun damage in terms of premature facial ageing.

How long before surgery should I stop smoking?

Patients often ask, how long should you be smoke-free before surgery, and the answer is as soon as possible.

In a 2019 study into post-surgery risks published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found smokers were 17% more likely to die and 53% more likely to have severe lung and heart problems. Comparing 125,000 smokers, 78,000 former smokers and 400,000 non-smokers, the study also found that smokers who quit at least a year before surgery had no increased risk of death compared to those who never smoked.

Quitting smoking at least four weeks before a procedure reduces the risk of post-surgical infections, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), and the University of Newcastle.

And it’s not just cigarettes that are an issue. In a 2018 study published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that electronic cigarettes had virtually the same negative impact on wound healing as they still contain nicotine and other chemicals.

What if I can’t quit smoking before surgery?

If you cannot quit smoking before your operation, Mr Alex Karidis may refuse to perform surgery at this time as it will likely impair your results. He advises patients to stop smoking for at least four weeks both before and after surgery.

For advice on how best to prepare for cosmetic surgery, call 0207 432 8727  to arrange a consultation with Mr Alex Karidis.