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If you are a smoker facing surgery soon, read this. If you love a smoker who is facing surgery, read this. If you are a smoker who would like another motivation to quit, read this.

In comments recently someone mentioned that they hadn't known about the way that smoking inhibits healing. Since they are knowledgeable, others are likely to need this information as well.

Bones heal more slowly for smokers

The physicians took x-rays of the patients' legs at different times after the ilizarov apparatus was in place so they could assess the rate of healing. They found that the nonsmoking patients formed new bone much faster than the patients who continued to smoke during the study. The average length of time for a nonsmoker to form 1 cm of new bone was 69.6 days, compared with 89.4 days for the smokers. Based on this rate, if a patient needed to form 5 cm (2 inches) of new bone, it would take 10 months for a nonsmoker and 15 months for a smoker. Former smokers also healed slower. Based on their rate of healing, it would take 1 3.6 months for a former smoker to form 5 cm of new bone.

And it's not just bones, either.
Smoking can cause many of the problems listed below.
  • Infection of your wound.
  • Longer and more expensive hospital stay.
  • If you have received a skin graft, it has a greater chance of not attaching as it should or failing.
  • Blood clots may form near the wound.
  • Stitches may come apart, causing scarring.
  • You are more likely to catch a cold or pneumonia due to more mucus in your lungs.
  • Decreased Vitamin C levels.  Vitamin C is needed to help your skin heal.
Why is smoking so bad for healing?
Smoking causes blood vessels to become smaller.  The smaller vessels have a harder time carrying oxygen, nutrients, and healing factors to the wound.  This can cause the wound healing process to take longer.

Carbon monoxide is a poison from smoking that enters your blood cells.  This poison lowers the level of oxygen in your blood.  Oxygen is vital to your healing. It only takes 3 full days of no smoking to get rid of all the carbon monoxide in your blood.  It is vital to quit smoking for at least 3 days before your surgery so that the oxygen can build back up in your blood stream.

It's also possible that it is the dioxin in tobacco smoke that is the villian, and research is testing that, with the hope of finding a medical way to reverse it. From that same link,
Dr. Hsu points out that up to 25 percent of patients who require orthopaedic care are smokers. “Those patients are less likely to be offered a surgical option because smoking is a negative risk factor,”
A longer discussion from patient information about how and why quitting smoking will greatly improve the success of surgery, especially orthopedic surgery but others as well.

Please share this information if you have friends or loved ones who smoke.

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