How to Stop Smoking Before and After Surgery

Recommendations and Resources to Stop Smoking before Plastic Surgery

Quitting smoking is a crucial step for anyone considering undergoing plastic surgery. It’s widely acknowledged in the medical community that smoking can significantly impact both the immediate and long-term outcomes of surgical procedures. The act of smoking introduces a myriad of chemicals into the body, many of which have harmful effects that can complicate both the surgery and the healing process.

The benefits of quitting smoking before surgery extend beyond the operating room. It not only enhances the body’s ability to heal post-surgery but also contributes to overall better health outcomes. This includes improved heart and lung function, a reduced risk of developing smoking-related diseases, and an enhanced immune system. Additionally, quitting smoking can improve skin quality, which is particularly important in surgeries where aesthetic outcomes are a primary concern.

Quitting smoking isn’t just about eliminating a negative habit; it’s about embracing a healthier lifestyle that will help maximise the benefits of your surgical procedure and improve your overall well-being.

Risks of Smoking on Surgical Outcomes

The relationship between smoking and increased surgical risks is well-documented. Smoking affects the body in several ways that are particularly problematic for surgical patients. Nicotine, a component of tobacco smoke, causes blood vessels to constrict. This constriction reduces blood flow, which is essential for healing wounds. Reduced blood flow can lead to prolonged healing times and increases the risk of infection.

Moreover, carbon monoxide, another component of cigarette smoke, decreases the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity. Oxygen is critical for wound healing, and its deficiency can severely impair the body’s ability to repair itself post-surgery. This can result in complications such as necrosis (death of tissue), dehiscence (wound separation), and overall poor aesthetic outcomes.

Statistically, the impact of smoking on surgical risks is significant. Studies have shown that smokers have a notably higher risk of surgical complications compared to non-smokers. These complications can range from minor issues, such as prolonged healing, to severe problems, such as deep vein thrombosis, heart problems, or even life-threatening infections.

Setting a Quit Date

Given the risks associated with smoking and surgery, setting a quit date is a vital part of your pre-surgical preparation. A quit date is a personal commitment to begin your journey towards a smoke-free life. It’s important to set this date well in advance of your surgery. Ideally, patients should aim to be smoke-free at least six weeks before undergoing surgery, as this time frame allows the body to begin repairing the damage caused by smoking.

Choosing a quit date requires thoughtful consideration. It should be a date that is realistic and achievable for you. When selecting this date, take into account your surgery schedule, personal commitments, and any events that might make quitting more challenging. It’s advisable to choose a relatively stress-free period where you can focus on your health without undue pressure from external factors.

When setting your quit date, consider the following tips:

  • Mark the date on your calendar and inform your support network (family, friends, healthcare providers) about your decision. Their support can be invaluable
  • Begin to reduce your smoking gradually leading up to your quit date to make the transition easier
  • Identify triggers that make you want to smoke and plan how to manage these triggers without resorting to cigarettes
  • Consider consulting with your healthcare provider about smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medications, which can help manage withdrawal symptoms

Setting a quit date and sticking to it is a powerful step towards a successful surgery and a healthier life. It’s a commitment to yourself and your well-being, and it lays the foundation for a smoother surgical experience and recovery.

Strategies to Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is a journey unique to each individual, and there are various methods available that cater to different preferences and needs. It is essential to choose a method that resonates with you, as a personalised approach significantly increases the chances of success. Here are some commonly used strategies:

  1. Cold Turkey: This method involves abruptly stopping all smoking without the aid of any quitting aids or therapies. It requires strong willpower and determination. While challenging, it can be effective for those who prefer a straightforward approach
  2. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT): NRT helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms by providing a controlled dose of nicotine without the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. Forms of NRT include nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers, or nasal sprays. They are typically used over a period of time while gradually decreasing the nicotine dosage
  3. Prescription Medications: Certain medications can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These medications require a doctor’s supervision due to potential side effects and contraindications
  4. Behavioural Therapy: Behavioural therapy involves working with a counsellor or therapist to find strategies to stop smoking. It can include identifying triggers, learning stress management techniques, and receiving emotional support during the quitting process

In addition to these methods, numerous resources and support systems are available to assist in the quitting process:

  • Local Support Groups: Many communities offer in-person support groups. These groups provide a forum to share experiences and receive encouragement from others who are also working to quit smoking
  • Online Support Groups and Forums: For those who prefer digital platforms, online communities can offer support and advice. Websites and social media groups dedicated to quitting smoking can be invaluable resources
  • Mobile Apps: Various apps are designed to assist in smoking cessation. These apps can track progress, provide tips and motivational messages, and offer ways to manage cravings
  • Hotlines: Smoking cessation hotlines provide immediate assistance and advice. Trained professionals can offer support and direct you to additional resources

Dealing with Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from nicotine can be challenging, and understanding common symptoms can help you prepare to manage them effectively. Common withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, increased appetite, and cravings for nicotine. Managing these symptoms is a part of the quitting process.

Effective strategies to cope with these symptoms include:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can alleviate stress and improve mood. It can also help manage weight gain that may occur after quitting
  • Meditation and Relaxation Techniques: Practices such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga can reduce stress and anxiety levels, making it easier to cope with cravings
  • Engaging in Hobbies: Distracting yourself with activities you enjoy can take your mind off smoking. Whether it’s reading, painting, gardening, or any other hobby, keeping busy is a helpful way to avoid thinking about cigarettes
  • Healthy Snacking: Having healthy snacks on hand can help manage increased appetite and oral cravings. Foods like fruits, vegetables, or nuts are good choices
  • Sleep: Adequate rest is important. Lack of sleep can exacerbate irritability and stress, making it harder to resist cravings

Creating a Smoke-Free Environment

Creating a smoke-free environment is a vital step in quitting smoking. It helps in reducing exposure to triggers and ensures a healthier space for yourself and others. Here are some tips to make your home and car smoke-free:

  • Remove All Smoking Items: Discard all cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, and anything else associated with smoking. Having these items out of sight can reduce temptation
  • Clean Your Living Spaces: Thoroughly clean your home and car to remove the smell of smoke. This includes washing clothes, bedding, upholstery, and cleaning carpets
  • Implement a No-Smoking Rule: Declare your home and car smoke-free zones. This rule should apply to everyone, including guests
  • Change Routines: Identify routines that involve smoking and change them. For example, if you used to smoke with your morning coffee, try switching to tea or a different beverage
  • Use Air Fresheners: Fresh scents can help eliminate cravings. Try using air fresheners, scented candles, or essential oils to keep your environment smelling clean and fresh
  • Avoid Smoking Areas: When outside, stay away from areas where people smoke. Seeing or smelling smoke can trigger a desire to smoke

Maintaining a Smoke-Free Life after Surgery

Maintaining a smoke-free life after surgery can greatly enhance your body’s healing capability. Smoking can interfere with the blood flow and oxygen supply, essential for healing post-surgical wounds. Staying smoke-free reduces the risk of surgery-related complications, such as infections or delayed healing.

In the long term, a smoke-free life contributes to overall improved health. It lowers the risk of developing smoking-related diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Moreover, it improves respiratory function and cardiovascular health. For those who have undergone plastic surgery, quitting smoking contributes to better aesthetic results, as smoking can accelerate skin ageing and impair skin quality.

Strategies to Avoid Relapse

Here are some strategies:

  • Recognise and Avoid Triggers: Identify situations or emotions that make you want to smoke and find ways to avoid or manage them
  • Seek Support: Stay connected with support groups or individuals who encourage your smoke-free journey
  • Stay Active: Engage in physical activities. Exercise not only diverts your mind from smoking but also releases endorphins, which improve mood and reduce stress
  • Practice Stress Management: Develop healthy ways to cope with stress, like meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies
  • Celebrate Milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate the milestones in your smoke-free journey. This recognition can provide motivation to stay on course

Seeking Help for Cravings

If you’re struggling with cravings post-surgery, it’s important to seek help. Consult with your healthcare provider about options for managing cravings. They might recommend nicotine replacement therapy or other medications. Additionally, consider reaching out to a therapist or counsellor who specialises in smoking cessation.

Additional Resources to Help You Stop Smoking before Plastic Surgery

Quitting smoking can be a challenging journey, but there are several resources available in the UK to support you. Here’s a list of some valuable resources for those looking to quit smoking:

  1. NHS Smokefree:
    • Website: NHS Smokefree
    • Description: This is a comprehensive resource offered by the National Health Service (NHS) dedicated to helping people quit smoking. It includes a variety of tools and support options such as an app, email and SMS support, and expert advice
  2. Quit Smoking Helpline:
    • Phone: 0300 123 1044
    • Description: The NHS also provides a free national helpline offering advice and encouragement to help you quit smoking
  3. Local NHS Stop Smoking Services:
    • Website: NHS Stop Smoking Services
    • Description: The NHS offers local stop smoking services, which are free, friendly, and can massively boost your chances of quitting for good. These services offer one-to-one or group sessions with trained stop smoking advisers and support with stop smoking medicines
  4. Smokefree App:
    • Available on iOS and Android
    • Description: This app is part of the NHS Smokefree campaign and is designed to help you quit smoking by providing daily support and motivation
  5. ASH (Action on Smoking and Health):
    • Website: ASH
    • Description: A public health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco. They provide resources and information for smokers who are looking to quit
  6. Pharmacies:
    • Many pharmacies across the UK offer smoking cessation advice and can provide nicotine replacement therapies. Speak to your local pharmacist for more information
  7. Your GP:
    • Your General Practitioner (GP) can also provide advice, support, and treatment to help you quit smoking. They can prescribe medications, refer you to local stop smoking services, and provide ongoing support

Utilising these resources can significantly increase your chances of successfully quitting smoking and maintaining a smoke-free life.

FAQs about Smoking and Plastic Surgery

How long before surgery should I quit smoking?

  • Ideally, you should quit smoking at least six weeks before surgery to allow your body time to heal and reduce the risk of complications.

Can I use nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking before surgery?

  • Yes, nicotine replacement therapy can be an effective tool to help quit smoking. However, it’s important to discuss this with your plastic surgeon or healthcare provider.

Will quitting smoking before surgery improve my recovery?

  • Absolutely. Quitting smoking improves blood flow and oxygenation, which are vital for healing and can lead to a smoother and quicker recovery.

What if I slip and smoke a cigarette during my quitting process?

  • A slip doesn’t mean failure. Acknowledge it, understand what led to it, and refocus on your goal to quit smoking. Seek support if needed.

Is it important to stay smoke-free even after surgery?

  • Yes, staying smoke-free post-surgery is essential to maintain your surgical results and for overall health benefits.

Further Reading about Procedures with Consultant Plastic Surgeon Anthony MacQuillan

Medical References about Smoking and Surgery