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Surgical complications are more likely to heighten in smokers

KARACHI: According to a recently issued WHO report, tobacco smokers were at a significantly higher risk than non-smokers for post-surgical complications, including impaired heart and lung functions, infections, and delayed or impaired wound healing.

However, new evidence revealed that smokers who quit approximately four weeks or more before surgery have a lower risk of complications and better results six months post-surgery. Patients who quit smoking tobacco were less likely to experience complications with anesthesia when compared to regular smokers.

A new joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO), the University of Newcastle, Australia, and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), showed that every tobacco-free week after four weeks improved health outcomes by 19%, due to improved blood flow throughout the body to essential organs.

“The report provides evidence that there are advantages to postponing minor or non-emergency surgery to give patients the opportunity to quit smoking, resulting in a better health outcome,” said Dr Vinayak Prasad, Head of Unit, No Tobacco, World Health Organization.

The nicotine and carbon monoxide, both present in cigarettes, could decrease oxygen levels and greatly increased the risk of heart-related complications after surgery. Smoking tobacco also damaged the lungs making it difficult for the proper amount of air to flow through, increasing the risk of post-surgical complications to the lungs. Smoking distorted a patient’s immune system and can delay healing, increasing the risk of infection at the wound site. Smoking just one cigarette decreased the body’s ability to deliver necessary nutrients for healing after surgery.

“Complications after surgery present a large burden for both the health care provider and the patient.  Primary care physicians, surgeons, nurses, and families are important in supporting a patient to quit smoking at every stage of care, especially before an operation,” explained Dr Shams Syed, Coordinator, Quality of Care, WHO.

The WHO encouraged countries to include cessation programs and educational campaigns in their health systems to spread awareness and help people quit smoking.

-DN Report

January 27, 2020

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