Impaired Healing: A Good Reason To Quit Smoking in 2015
We know smoking is bad for our health—we also know how difficult it can be to quit. If kicking the habit is on your New Year’s Resolutions list, we’ve got some facts about smoking and healing to strengthen your resolve.
The messages about smoking are clear: this habit harms nearly every organ of the body, causes diseases including numerous cancers, stroke, and heart disease, takes a toll on the health of smokers and the people around them, and increases the risk of premature death. Yet, approximately 20 percent of Americans continue to smoke. Even when smokers are aware of the health dangers, the highly addictive chemicals in cigarettes can overwhelm the best of intentions.
If 2015 is the year you have vowed to stop smoking, we applaud you! And we have one more reason for you to add to your list of the reasons you’ve decided to quit: smoking has a significant impact on your ability to recover from any orthopedic surgery you may be planning.
The surgical risks faced by smokers include the following:
- Bones and tissues may not bond or heal as well as they do in non-smoking surgical patients.
- Smoking creates a higher risk of post-surgical infection.
- Post-surgical pain can be higher in smokers.
How does smoking hinder our body’s ability to heal after surgery?
We need the oxygen in the air we breathe to support a number of our body’s functions, including our ability to heal after a surgery. Harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke—including nicotine, hydrogen cyanide, and carbon monoxide—diminish our body’s ability to get the oxygen we need.
Hemoglobin molecules in our blood carry oxygen through the body. The chemicals in cigarette smoke cause our blood vessels to become narrower, making it more difficult for the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin to push through constricted vessels to the tissues where oxygen is needed. Smoking also makes blood thicker as it shrinks blood vessels, compounding the problem. Imagine blood vessels as the body’s highway system, designed to carry multiple lanes of trucks loaded with oxygen. Smoking closes down lanes in this highway, reduces allowed traffic from trucks to cars, and forces all vehicles to travel at a slower speed. The result? Tissues in your extremities may go without the oxygen they need. If you are a smoker and you’ve had foot surgery, your body is going to have a hard time carrying enough oxygen to the skin and tissues where the surgery was performed.
Your bones are affected by this reduced blood supply, too. With less oxygen, smokers face a higher risk that their bones won’t knit together as successfully following surgery. Research shows that smokers are up to ten times more likely to have problems with both incision healing and bone healing.
The good news is that these risks are not inevitable. You have the power to change them and improve any future surgical outcome by quitting now, before a surgery. Stay tuned for more information about the surgical risks connected to smoking, and the benefits you’ll realize by quitting the habit.
By choosing to leave the smoking habit behind, you improve your probability of a successful surgical outcome, and your prospects for a longer, healthier life.
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