Smoking and Plastic Surgery

By Dr Jake Lim – Plastic Surgeon | Updated: February 21, 2024

How Smoking Influences Your Plastic Surgery Results

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: smoking is bad for your health. It’s a well-known fact that smoking can lead to a host of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer. But did you know that smoking can also have a significant impact on your plastic surgery results?

Smoking affects your body in a variety of ways, some of which are more obvious than others. It reduces blood flow, which can slow down the healing process after surgery. It also increases the risk of complications, including infection, scarring, and poor wound healing. In this blog, we will discuss the impact of smoking on your plastic surgery results.

Sydney Plastic Surgeon Dr Jake Lim is passionate about making sure each and every patient has access to the right information about available treatments and procedures and is able to make well-informed decisions.

Understanding Plastic Surgery

Before we discuss the specifics of how smoking influences plastic surgery results, let’s first establish a clear understanding of what plastic surgery entails. Plastic surgery is a broad field that includes both reconstructive procedures, which restore form and function to body parts affected by injury, disease, or congenital defects, and cosmetic procedures, which aim to enhance physical appearance.

Regardless of the type of procedure, plastic surgery involves the careful manipulation of soft tissues, often requiring incisions, sutures, and sometimes implants. This delicate work relies heavily on the body’s ability to heal properly, a process that can be negatively affected by smoking.

The Relationship between Smoking and Plastic Surgery Results

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, let’s see how does smoking affect plastic surgery results? The relationship between smoking and plastic surgery results is complex and multifaceted, but it can be distilled down to a few key points.

Firstly, smoking impairs blood flow. This is particularly problematic in plastic surgery, as blood flow is critical for wound healing and tissue viability. Secondly, smoking can interfere with the body’s immune response, making it harder to fight off infections post-surgery. Lastly, smoking increases the risk of complications, such as wound dehiscence (separation of the wound edges), necrosis (death of tissue), and capsular contracture (hardening of tissue around implants), all of which can negatively affect your plastic surgery results.

When you smoke, you inhale a cocktail of harmful chemicals, including carbon monoxide, nicotine, and tar. These chemicals can have profound effects on your body’s ability to heal after surgery.

Carbon monoxide binds to haemoglobin in your red blood cells, reducing the amount of oxygen that can be transported to your tissues. This can slow down the wound healing process and increase the risk of complications. Nicotine, on the other hand, constricts your blood vessels, which can further limit blood flow to your tissues and inhibit healing.

Moreover, smoking can increase the risk of anaesthesia-related complications, such as pneumonia, heart attack, and stroke. This is because smoking can impair lung function and increase the risk of blood clots. Overall, these factors make smoking a significant risk factor for poor plastic surgery outcomes.

The Biological Impact of Smoking on Plastic Surgery Healing Process

In addition to the factors mentioned above, smoking can also have a direct biological impact on the plastic surgery healing process. For instance, smoking can interfere with collagen synthesis, which is a crucial part of the wound healing process. Collagen is a protein that gives your skin its strength and elasticity. When its synthesis is impaired, your wounds may take longer to heal, and your scars may be more noticeable.

Moreover, research has shown that smoking can increase the production of free radicals in your body. These unstable molecules can cause damage to your cells and tissues, which can further impede the healing process. In short, the biological impact of smoking on the plastic surgery healing process can be far-reaching and detrimental.

Case Studies: Smoking and Plastic Surgery

Several case studies illustrate the negative effects of smoking on plastic surgery results. For instance, a review found that tobacco use can significantly increase the total number of postoperative complications after abdominoplasty and breast reduction surgery.

Another study found that smokers had a higher risk of complications after breast augmentation surgery, including capsular contracture, infection, and necrosis.

These studies underscore the significant impact of smoking on plastic surgery outcomes and highlight the importance of quitting smoking before undergoing plastic surgery.

Tips for Quitting Smoking before Plastic Surgery

If you’re a smoker and you’re considering plastic surgery, the best thing you can do to improve your results is to quit smoking. Quitting smoking, even temporarily, can significantly improve your plastic surgery outcomes. It’s generally recommended that you quit smoking at least six to eight weeks before your surgery and refrain from smoking for at least six weeks after your surgery. This is because the effects of smoking on blood flow and wound healing can persist for several weeks after you quit.

Quitting smoking can be challenging, but it’s one of the most important steps you can take to ensure the best possible plastic surgery results. There are many resources available to help you quit, including smoking cessation programs, nicotine replacement therapy, and counselling.

Smoking Cessation Programs

These are structured programs that provide a step-by-step plan to quit smoking. They often include resources like educational materials, group therapy, and even prescription medications to help you quit.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

NRT includes products like nicotine gum, patches, and inhalers that provide a controlled amount of nicotine to ease withdrawal symptoms. This is not suitable if you are undergoing surgery as any form of Nicotine product can interfere with wound healing. Always consult your plastic surgeon before starting NRT, especially if you’re planning to undergo surgery.

Counselling

Individual or group counselling can provide emotional support and coping strategies. Some people find it easier to quit when they have someone to talk to about the challenges they’re facing.

Enlisting Support from Friends and Family

Your loved ones can be a great source of emotional support. Let them know about your plans to quit smoking and how they can help. Whether it’s by providing distractions, joining you for a walk, or simply being there to talk, their support can be invaluable.

Online Communities

There are numerous online forums and social media groups where people share their quitting stories, tips, and offer moral support. Sometimes, knowing you’re not alone can make all the difference.

Removing Triggers

Identify the triggers that make you want to smoke and take steps to eliminate them. This could mean avoiding certain social situations, or even rearranging your home to remove smoking reminders.

Smoking can have a significant impact on your plastic surgery results. From impairing wound healing to increasing the risk of complications, smoking can negatively affect your plastic surgery outcomes in a variety of ways.

Resources to Quit Smoking before Plastic Surgery in Australia

Quitting smoking before undergoing plastic surgery is crucial as smoking can significantly impact healing, increase the risk of complications, and impair the final result of the surgery. If you are in Sydney, Australia, or anywhere within the country, there are various resources designed to support your journey toward quitting, especially when preparing for surgery. Here are some resources you might find beneficial:

Mobile Applications for Smoking Cessation

My QuitBuddy App

This app is a versatile tool for those committed to quitting. With features allowing you to set personal goals, track your progress, and access a community of support, My QuitBuddy can be particularly useful when you have a deadline for quitting, such as an upcoming surgery.

Quit for You – Quit for Two App

Though initially designed for expectant mothers, the structure and supportive content of this app make it suitable for anyone committed to quitting. It provides motivational tips, health information, and tracking features that keep your quitting goals front and centre.

Online Platforms and Services for Quit Support

QuitCoach (www.quit.org.au)

QuitCoach offers a personalised approach based on your smoking habits and feedback. It creates an individual quit plan that can be aligned with your pre-surgery goals, providing structured support and strategies to ensure you’re smoke-free before the procedure.

iCanQuit (www.icanquit.com.au)

iCanQuit provides a comprehensive array of resources, including planning tools, motivational success stories, and practical strategies for dealing with cravings and withdrawal. The website’s community support aspect is invaluable, offering a sense of camaraderie and shared goals.

Get Healthy NSW (www.gethealthynsw.com.au)

For those who prefer interactive, human support, Get Healthy NSW offers free telephone-based coaching. Their lifestyle change programs, including smoking cessation support, are ideal for individuals preparing for surgery who may benefit from a more hands-on approach and professional guidance.

International Quit Support Website

Smokefree.gov (Build Your Quit Plan)

Smokefree.gov, though based outside Australia, offers universally applicable support. The site’s “Build Your Quit Plan” feature helps create a structured, personalised approach to quitting, ideal for those with a set timeline like an upcoming surgical procedure.

More Resources to Help You Quit Smoking

QuitNow (www.quitnow.gov.au)

QuitNow is an Australian government initiative packed with resources, ranging from the financial benefits of quitting smoking to methods for managing stress during the process. It’s particularly useful for surgical candidates needing comprehensive, accessible information and support.

The Quit Kit

Many regions offer “Quit Kits,” often available through healthcare providers or local pharmacies. These kits typically include educational materials, stress-reduction tools, and sometimes samples of nicotine replacement products. They are designed to provide tangible support and resources.

Smartphone Apps for Mindfulness and Stress Reduction

Apps like Headspace or Calm offer guided meditations and stress management techniques that can be particularly helpful when dealing with nicotine withdrawal and the anxiety that can accompany preparation for surgery. These methods can help maintain a calm and focused mindset, crucial for staying committed to quitting.

Behavioural Therapy

Behavioural therapists or counsellors can provide strategies to cope with cravings, establish new habits, and prepare mentally for both quitting smoking and the upcoming surgical procedure. They can offer personalised support based on an individual’s unique behavioural patterns and needs.

Each person responds differently to various methods of quitting smoking, and what works for one individual may not work for another. It’s often a combination of resources, both digital and real-world support, that creates a successful quit strategy, especially when the added stress of upcoming surgery is part of the equation.

FAQs about Smoking and Plastic Surgery

FAQs

Why is it important to quit smoking before undergoing plastic surgery?

  • Quitting smoking is crucial before plastic surgery because smoking can restrict blood flow, leading to poor wound healing and increased risk of infection. Additionally, nicotine can interact negatively with anaesthesia, making the surgical procedure riskier. Dr Lim requires patients to quit smoking several weeks before surgery to minimise these risks.

How long before surgery should I quit smoking?

  • The recommended time to quit smoking is of about 6-8 weeks before the procedure. This allows your body time to clear out nicotine and other toxins, improving blood flow and reducing surgical risks.

Can I use Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) to quit smoking before surgery?

  • While Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can be effective for quitting smoking, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider and plastic surgeon before starting any form of NRT. Nicotine of any form, even in controlled amounts, can still have adverse effects on your surgery.

What resources are available to help me quit smoking before surgery?

There are multiple resources available to help you quit smoking, including:

  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
  • Counselling services
  • Support from friends and family
  • Online communities and forums

Will quitting smoking improve my plastic surgery results?

  • Yes, quitting smoking can significantly improve your plastic surgery results. Better blood flow ensures more effective wound healing, and the absence of nicotine reduces the risk of complications. Overall, you’re more likely to have a successful surgery and quicker recovery if you quit smoking beforehand.

Can I resume smoking after my surgery is complete?

  • Resuming smoking after surgery is not advisable as it can still impact your healing process and long-term surgical results. Many of the risks associated with smoking and surgery, such as poor wound healing and increased risk of infection, can continue to be issues even after the surgery is complete.

What are the long-term benefits of quitting smoking in the context of plastic surgery?

  • Quitting smoking not only improves your surgical outcomes but also has long-term benefits for your overall health. These include improved lung function, lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Further Reading about Surgery with Dr Jake Lim

Medical References about Smoking and Plastic Surgery

About Dr Jake Lim

Highly qualified and experienced specialist plastic surgeon Dr Jake Lim focuses on facial plastic, cosmetic breast and body contouring after significant weight loss

Dr Lim creates the best possible plastic surgery results for his Australia-wide and international patients.

Dr Lim is passionate about making sure each and every patient has access to the right information about available treatments and procedures and is able to make well-informed decisions.

At My Klinik, patient safety, education and achieving optimal results are our top priorities.