Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
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Stop Smoking for Safer Surgery


The Risks
Canada’s anesthesiologists are highly trained and are dedicated to ensuring your surgery goes well. Smokers, however, pose challenges, including an increased risk of:

  • Breathing problems after anesthetic;
  • Heart attack (due to a reduction in the amount of oxygen their blood can carry to their heart); and
  • Post-surgical wound infection (due to reduced oxygen in the blood).

Quitting smoking isn’t easy. But doing so even a few weeks before surgery can allow your lungs to start healing, reduce the poisons that put your heart at risk, and can help speed up the post-operative healing process. If you’ve tried to quit before and failed, you are at least aware of what to expect. And pending surgery may well be the motivation you need to succeed this time.

The Decision to Quit
No smoker needs to be told that smoking is unhealthy, expensive, and now, more so than ever, socially unacceptable – they know these facts. The decision to quit is and must be a personal one – making that decision and setting a target “quit date” is a big first step. Stay focused on the date, your personal reason for deciding “now” is the right time for you (perhaps your upcoming surgery), and use the resources that follow to help you get ready for those first few difficult days.

Medication
There are two primary types of medication designed to help you succeed at quitting smoking. Nicotine replacement therapies such as patches, gum and inhalers provide a controlled amount of nicotine to reduce your cravings. Oral medications may be prescribed by your physician, and may be used in concert with nicotine replacement therapies. Some individuals have had success with alternative treatments such as acupuncture, laser therapy or hypnosis, but there is no scientific evidence indicating that any of these methods actually work.

Getting Help
Call the Smokers’ Helpline (1-877-513-5333) to speak with a “Quit Specialist” who can help you: develop your own quit plan; deal with cravings; provide information on quitting methods; help you cope with withdrawal symptoms; and, manage the stress. Visit www.smokershelpline.ca for tips, tools, success stories and an online community where you can connect with others who are also committed to becoming smoke-free.

Reaping the Benefits
The risk to your heart reduces just a few short hours after smoking. Your lungs will start to improve within a month. As such, it’s best to pick a “quit day” at least a month before your surgery. If you can’t do that, at minimum stop smoking 8 hours before your surgery. And since you cannot smoke in the hospital, using your surgical date as your “quit day” might be a good option. After all, you’ll be away from your regular routine and habits and will be surrounded by medical professionals who would be only too happy to provide the advice and help you need to join the growing number of Canadians who have put their smoking days behind them.

Links

On the Road to Quitting (Health Canada's Guide to becoming a non-smoker)

Stop Smoking for Safer Surgery
(Ontario Anesthesiologists' site)
 
Preparing for Surgery poster