Why You Should Quit Smoking Before Plastic Surgery
Edison, NJ – We all know that smoking is dangerous, but the effects of tobacco use impact far more than just our lungs. Carbon monoxide introduced during smoking affects our tissue and the nicotine found in tobacco products can cause blood vessels to restrict, limiting the amount of oxygen that can get to the rest of our body.
This is why it is essential that patients hoping to undergo plastic surgery quit smoking well before any procedure takes place.
“I recommend that any tobacco-using patients stop their habit several weeks before surgery,” says top NJ plastic surgeon, Dr. Andrew Miller. “Continuing to smoke right up until surgery can result in complications and issues after surgery. Smokers can face longer healing times and worsened scars.”
There are several ways tobacco use can affect a plastic surgery patient.
• Smoking compromises circulation, which can cause the skin to breakdown during or after surgery.
• Tobacco use can impede healing, taking longer or impeding the process.
• Smokers have a higher rate of post-op infection.
• Impaired healing can lead to issues with scarring, including skin loss and flap necrosis.
Because of these very serious complications, some plastic surgeons will refuse to perform surgery on patients who smoke. Others will require patients to commit to giving up smoking for several weeks prior to surgery. And this can be even more important depending on the type of surgery you choose.
Many surgeons do not like to perform facelift procedures on smokers because the effects of the habit restrict blood flow so much. In a facelift, especially, surgeons rely on good blood flow in those tiny capillaries to help with healing. But if those have been impaired due to smoking, it makes healing that much harder.
“During a facelift, the tissue is actually lifted up from the surface,” says Dr. Miller. “The blood supply becomes extremely important because it will already be greatly decreased during the procedure. Smoking just further reduces the supply of blood, which can then lead to dying skin and unsightly scars.”
It is important to remember that this applies not just to smokers, but to users of nicotine in any form, even the patch. Nicotine is the primary instigator when it comes to restricting blood flow, so patients should not think they can stop smoking but instead switch to the patch or nicotine gum. The use of any products containing nicotine should be suspended until given the okay by your surgeon.
But why should you be so concerned about the amount of oxygen in your blood during surgery?
To accomplish your plastic surgery goals, the surgeon will move skin and/or other tissues around. And that will mean also altering blood supply to different degrees. Some blood vessels will be divided to move the skin around to create the best look and shape. This is especially true in tummy tuck procedures that rely on a flatter outcome.
If, during these procedures, the correct amount of oxygen isn’t getting to the area, the tissue could heal improperly or die completely.
Many candidates for surgery may claim that they have never experienced issues in healing before. But plastic surgery is much different because the tissues are moved to new locations and the blood supply is altered. Complications from plastic surgery procedures are much higher than in other procedures.
But if you still don’t think it’s important to stop smoking before your surgery, consider this story from a plastic surgeon in Detroit.
Dr. Anthony Youn was performing a standard breast lift on a patient when her nipples began to turn purple before his eyes. He knew that this was a precursor to the nipples falling off altogether.
Dr. Youn had to use leeches to save his patient’s nipples. The leeches worked to drain the excess blood, helping the skin return to its normal pink color.
But now Dr. Youn, and plastic surgeons like him, are being even more serious when they talk about the dangers of smoking with their patients. Smoking before or after a breast procedure could cause your nipples to turn black and fall off. And the consequences are just as serious with other procedures.
Some plastic surgeons take the issue of smoking so seriously, they will even refuse to work on smokers. We’ve heard stories of plastic surgeons asking their patients to sign contracts stating that they won’t smoke for a certain period of time before and after surgery. Other surgeons show their patients graphic images of what can happen when people lie and tell their surgeon they stopped when in fact they didn’t.
“In truth, we have no way of knowing if a patient truly quits before surgery,” says Dr. Miller. “We have to take their word for it. But in many cases, as soon as surgery begins, we can tell if they’ve been lying. In other cases, we don’t realize it until the recovery stage. Patients wonder why they are taking longer than planned to heal, or why their scars look worse than they thought they would.”
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