Smokers & Surgery – The Impact of Smoking

Surgery & Smoking – How Nicotine impacts your surgical recovery and cosmetic surgery results

Smoking can be detrimental to your health in many ways. One major downside is that it can ruin the results of your cosmetic or plastic surgery and lead to complications like infections, tissue death, or wound breakdown.

Smoking directly increases your risk of infection and wound complications. Smoking or taking nicotine in any form can lead to reduced blood flow, which automatically translates to poor healing and serious risks to your health. Surgery and smoking are a bad combination.

Dr Scott Turner is a Sydney plastic surgeon who performs breast surgery, body surgery, and facial cosmetic surgery on non-smokers and patients willing to stop smoking before and after surgery.

How Smoking Impacts the Results of Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery

1. Smoking Delays Healing

If you continue to smoke, your skin won’t heal at a rapid pace. When you smoke, it leads to lower absorption of important nutrients such as vitamin C (essential for healing/recovery). This is because nicotine causes the blood vessels to constrict, thus reducing the blood flow within them. It’s best to quit smoking before undergoing any kind of surgical procedure.

2. Higher Risk of Infections

Delayed wound healing essentially means that you will be more vulnerable to developing wounds. It can lead to infections and contamination of bacteria. Moreover, smoking can also weaken the immune system by reducing the function of immune cells, impairing the respiratory system, and decreasing the oxygen levels in the blood.

3. Fatal Complications

Smokers are at a higher risk of fatal complications including strokes, formation of blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, and other circulatory diseases. These risks and complications can be minimised if you quit smoking.

4. Tissue Death – Skin Necrosis

Smoking constricts the blood vessels which essentially translates to poor circulation of blood. It also compromises skin repair functions. This can lead to poor organ function and permanent damage to your tissues.

5. Increased Medication Requirement

It is no surprise that tobacco, cannabis, and nicotine down-regulate the effects of medications, drugs, and other substances. Essentially, you’ll need a higher dose of pain medications, antibiotics, and other drugs to keep your levels balanced.

6. It Might Lead to Lack of Exercise

Your surgeon will advise you to stay fit and healthy post-surgery. Smoking can damage your lungs and lead to cardiovascular problems which prevent you from exercising. This can lead to unhealthy weight changes which are not recommended post-surgery.

7. Bottoming Out of Breasts, Premature Aging, Low Survival of Fat

If you are smoking, the breast implants can bottom out prematurely because your skin lacks strength. If you have undergone face fat transfer, the chances of fat survival will become lower. Smoking also leads to premature skin ageing.

8. Increased Inflammation and Pain

Chemicals found in cigarettes can increase inflammation, pain, and swelling throughout your body. It also reduces the effects of your medications which worsen the pain.

9. Increased Risk of Bruising and Discolouration

Bruising is common after any kind of surgical procedure. Smoking is linked with an increased risk of bruising and skin discolouration due to its effect on blood vessels, causing them to constrict and reduce blood flow to tissues. This reduction in blood flow diminishes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin, making it more prone to damage and delayed healing, leading to visible bruising and discoloration.

Dr Turner’s 8 Top Tips for Smokers to quit or cut down when having Plastic Surgery

1. Get inspired to take action

We all have a particular look we wish to achieve with our plastic surgery. Put up your inspiration picture in your room, on your phone, and maybe one in your car too. Whenever you feel the urge to smoke, simply look at the picture and remind yourself why you are getting the procedure done.

2. Find and avoid your smoking ‘triggers’.

If you smoke when you are with a particular group of friends, maybe it’s time to avoid the gathering for some time. Do you smoke in the car? – keep gum or candy in the car instead. If seeing someone else smoke triggers you, it’s time to stay out of such gatherings.

3. Develop hobbies & activities

Spend time nurturing your hobbies and other interesting activities that might help take your mind off smoking. It can include hiking, gardening, painting, watching a movie, or even painting your nails.

4. Avoid smoke and smokers

Try to spend your leisure time in smoke-free zones such as a mall, or at a movie theatre, with friends and loved ones who don’t smoke.

5. Use other alternatives to nicotine

Discuss non-nicotine prescription medications with your doctor that can help you quit smoking before the surgery. You might want to do this step a little in advance.

6. Commit to others

Tell your friends and family that you are quitting smoking for you to gain support. A little bit of support goes a long way when it comes to quitting a daily habit.

7. Learn more about the effects of smoking

Read about the effects of smoking on surgery. Learning about the facts will get your priorities in order and help you quit them for your health.

8. Get more help

If you have tried quitting before but failed, getting a bit of professional help can work wonders. Join a group, visit a psychologist, taking advice from your doctor can provide the needed support.

Smoking FAQs – Questions about Smoking & Surgery

Can I have plastic surgery if I smoke?

Smokers have significant complication rates as compared to non-smokers after plastic surgery. Hence, it is recommended to quit smoking for at least 3 to 6 weeks before and after the plastic surgery. Most surgeons will not perform a surgical procedure if you smoke.

When should I stop smoking before plastic surgery?

It is recommended to quit smoking as well as stop consuming anything that contains nicotine for at least three to six weeks before getting plastic surgery.

What happens if you smoke and have surgery?

Smoking can weaken your immune system, delay the healing process, and lead to a lot of post-surgical complications.

Can you be denied surgery if you smoke?

Yes, you might be denied surgery if you smoke or refuse to quit it for a specified time duration.

Do they test for nicotine before surgery?

Yes, most hospitals will do a test for nicotine detection before the surgery; a urine or breath test as a part of your pre-op assessment.

What happens if you smoke before plastic surgery?

If you smoke before plastic surgery, it can lead to a variety of complications such as infections, death of fat cells, hard lumps, delayed wound healing, thick and wide scars, blood clots, increased pain, permanent small vessel damage, and life-threatening complications.

Why does nicotine affect surgery?

Nicotine minimises blood flow, slows down healing, increases the chances of infection, weakens your immune system, and negatively impacts your overall health.

Can I get breast surgery if I smoke?

Yes, but most plastic surgeons wouldn’t recommend that you undergo breast surgery if you are smoking or cannot quit it for a specified time before and after surgery.

Can I get a facelift if I smoke?

Most plastic surgeons refuse to perform facelifts on patients who are active smokers or are using nicotine in any form. Many perform nicotine tests before surgery begins.

What happens if I don’t stop smoking before an abdominoplasty?

It can increase the risk of poor wound healing, skin necrosis, infections, death of fat cells, hard lumps, delayed wound healing, thick and wide scars, blood clots, increased pain, permanent small vessel damage, and life-threatening complications.

Will your nipples fall off if you smoke?

There is a small chance of nipple tissue death or nipple necrosis. Smokers who undergo breast reduction or breast lift are at greater risk of losing a nipple after breast surgery. Nipple blood supply can be significantly reduced. The nipple may change colour to a dusky pink, then a darker brown, and finally black. Then it falls off.

How long does it take for nicotine to leave your system?

Generally, nicotine will leave your blood within 1 to 3 days after you stop using tobacco. However, the surgeon will advise you to quit smoking for 3 to 6 weeks. – WebMD

Can a surgeon tell if you smoke?

Yes, your doctor can tell if you smoke by looking at medical tests that can detect nicotine in your blood, saliva, urine, and hair.

What happens if I don’t tell my doctor I smoke before surgery?

Smoking before surgery puts you at a higher risk for blood clots, bleeding, and other complications. Hence, it is important to be open and honest with your surgeon.

How do you get nicotine out of your system before surgery?

Stop smoking or consuming any products containing nicotine for at least three to six weeks before the surgery.

When can you resume smoking after surgery?

It depends on the instructions given by your surgeon. In most cases, patients can resume smoking in about 3 to 6 weeks after the surgery.

Can I vape before surgery?

No, you cannot vape before the surgery.

Can I smoke e-cigarettes before surgery?

No, you shouldn’t smoke e-cigarettes before the surgery. The surgeon won’t allow any smoking alternatives before the surgery.

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Next Steps

Always Do Your Research

  • Download a Procedure Guides to find out more about your surgery.
  • Please read our website to learn more about your intended procedure.

Do you need a Medical Referral to see Dr Turner?

  • A medical referral is helpful but NOT essential for purely cosmetic consultations.
  • Please obtain a referral from your GP or Specialist if you want a consultation for an MBS item number surgery.
  • Please note that your Medicare Rebates will NOT be claimable without a valid recent Medical Referral.

Making The Most of Your Consultation

  • Please arrive early for your in-person consultation.
  • You are welcome to bring a friend or relative to help consider the information and discuss your options.
  • Ensure you also take a lot of notes during the consultation and thoroughly examine all the documents provided.

Want more information before scheduling your consultation?

How to Book Your Consultation

  • You can book your initial consultation by paying the $350 cosmetic consultation fee in advance – when you make your appointment.

Book a Phone Call for More Info

To find out more information about surgery you can book a FREE 15-minute phone conversation with our Friendly Patient Care team via Calendly- Book Consultant 1 or Book Consultant 2.

Contact us or call 1300 437 758 to arrange your surgeon consultation in Sydney.

Email us for more information: [email protected]