As National No Smoking Day dawns, the media will be full of exhortations to quit and stories of smokers who’ve done just that. If you are a smoker and you are considering cosmetic surgery, the reasons for giving up smoking before your procedure couldn’t be more compelling.
The danger of tissue necrosis
Maybe you’ve heard the term “tissue necrosis”. It means the death of tissue and it is a very real and present danger if you smoke before and after cosmetic surgery. Tissue necrosis can lead to the most serious complications and potentially result in lasting damage.
When tissue dies it cannot regrow and this can result in the permanent loss of a part of your body. In the case of breast augmentation or breast reduction, this might mean the loss of a nipple, or with a facelift, it may mean the loss of part of the cheek.
How nicotine affects recovery
The reason for such potentially disastrous side-effects is that recovery after cosmetic surgery relies on an adequate blood flow to the affected area. Nicotine and carbon monoxide interrupts the blood flow, either partially or completely. This can cause the part of the body that has been operated on to die and fall off.
It is hard to over-emphasise the importance of not smoking – either cigarettes, cigars or e-cigarettes – when you are undergoing cosmetic surgery. Other possible side-effects of smoking include:
- failure to heal properly
- death of fat cells, leading to hard lumps
- blood clots which can be fatal
- small vessel damage which can be permanent
- a greater chance of life-threatening complications including heart attacks and strokes
When to give up
Whatever type of surgery you are considering, your surgeon will advise you to quit smoking before your procedure. Ideally, you should give up at least six weeks before surgery but certainly no less than three weeks beforehand.
If you are having difficulty giving up, it is important to be honest with your surgeon. It is better to delay surgery until you have successfully managed to quit rather than going ahead and facing potentially catastrophic risks.
Support to quit
We realise that it is not always easy to give up, particularly if you have been smoking for a long time. The NHS offers the following self-help tips to people wanting to give up:
- Make a plan – make a promise to yourself, set a date and stick to it. “I won’t even have a single drag” is a good thing to keep saying to yourself, particularly when cravings strike.
- Think positively – even if you have tried before and it hasn’t worked, think how things could be different this time.
- Change your routine – if you always have a cigarette after a meal, think what else you could do instead. Also, consider eating different foods that don’t taste good with cigarettes, such as fruit and vegetables or cheese.
- Certain types of drink make cigarettes taste better, particularly alcohol, fizzy drinks and coffee. Consider drinking something different for a while.
- Develop a “craving strategy” – a craving typically lasts for five minutes so think about what you could do in that five minutes to help you overcome the craving.
- Get some help – the NHS has an excellent local stop smoking service. People are four times more likely to quit successfully with expert help and advice. Talk to your doctor about support that is available to you.