If you are thinking about plastic surgery, one of the first things your surgeon might tell you to do is quit smoking. Even if you’ve been a smoker for years, you’re probably aware of the negative effects the habit can have on your health. Those effects can be amplified if you use tobacco products and have surgery, as the nicotine in tobacco interferes with your body’s ability to heal and can increase your risk for complications.
Smoking can be especially harmful if you’re considering surgery that involves cutting flaps of skin, such as a necklift or facelift. If you want the best results from your surgery and want those results to last for as long as possible, quitting smoking when your surgeon recommends it is one of the best things you can do.
Complications From Smoking
Using nicotine products, including tobacco, patches or gum, cause vasoconstriction, or a narrowing of the blood vessels that restricts blood flow to an area of the body. Vasoconstriction can be an issue when you’re going about your regular life. It becomes more of an issue during surgery, especially if the surgeon is cutting away a portion of skin and needs the skin to stay healthy.
If the blood vessels are constricted and not enough blood flows to the area, the skin can die. The lack of blood flow to the area of the surgery can also slow down the healing process, meaning it takes longer for you to recover from the procedure or that a noticeable scar develops.
While nicotine often gets all of the blame for the ills of smoking, it’s really just one chemical among many. There are more than 250 chemicals and toxins in cigarette smoke, including carbon monoxide and nitric oxide, which can also interfere with healing after surgery.
Smoking can cause problems in your heart and lungs, such as heart disease and lung cancer. It also increases your risk for complications related to your lungs during surgery, particularly complications having to do with anesthesia. It also puts you at a greater risk for infection after the procedure, in the lungs or elsewhere on the body.
Studies back up the impact smoking can have on surgery complications. A study published in February 2013 in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery looked more than 400 patients from a single practice. One hundred and thirty-nine of the patients said they had quit smoking while 39 admitted to being current smokers. In reality, 54 of the patients were found to have nicotine in their systems through a urine test. The smokers were found to be more likely to have necrosis of the tissues, other complications, or to end up needing a second procedure.
Smoking Ages You
Aside from giving you an increased risk for complications, smoking and plastic surgery don’t mix because the two things cause different reactions in the body. The goal of a surgery like a facelift is to make you look younger. Smoking, on the other hand, speeds up the aging process. When blood flow to the skin is restricted, it is unable to receive the nutrients it needs. Additionally, the chemicals in tobacco products and smoke damage your skin by damaging elastin and collagen. The result is skin that becomes looser and saggier.
Getting Help Quitting
When you need to quit before surgery depends on your surgeon’s recommendations and the procedure you’re receiving. The general recommendation is to quit at least two weeks before surgery and to remain smoke-free for at least two weeks afterwards. Some surgeons might recommend quitting well in advance of the procedure, such as six weeks or even three months in advance. The longer you quit before surgery, the more likely you are to remain smoke-free afterwards.
There are many options when it comes to quitting. Some people find that using a nicotine patch or gum is helpful. But, the nicotine in the patch or gum can interfere with the surgery, so if you decide to go that route, you might have to wean yourself off of the product several weeks before your surgery.
Other options include a prescription medication that can help cut cravings for nicotine and tobacco products. Some people find that they are able to quit with the help of a therapist or support group. If you smoke, your plastic surgeon might be able to recommend a smoking cessation program for you.
Since tobacco use can severely impact the results of your surgery, it’s important that you do all you can to quit when directed by your surgeon. An initial consultation with a surgeon is important, not only for him to evaluate your health, but also for him to offer guidance about quitting, if needed.
The only double-board certified, practicing facial plastic surgeon in central Florida, Dr. Ross Clevens can help you determine if a specific surgery is right for you and can offer suggestions for smoking cessation. To schedule a consultation with the Ivy League-trained Dr. Clevens, call (321) 727-3223 today.