What Happens If You Smoke Before Surgery

Despite being perceived as a ‘healthier’ alternative to tobacco cigarettes, vaping liquid contains nicotine, which may significantly increase the risk for complications related to surgery and anesthesia, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). Every year, on the third Thursday of November, vapers and smokers alike are encouraged to take part in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. The AANA is supporting this effort by urging individuals not to vape or smoke before surgery.

In a report from the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarette use has risen to the level of a public health concern. The report uses the term “e-cigarette” to refer to the many different products that deliver nicotine electronically. Consumers and marketers call them by many names including “e-cigarettes,” “e-cigs,” “cigalikes,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” and “tank systems.” Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can cause addiction.

“It’s the nicotine found in vapes and tobacco that results in poor wound healing, increases anesthesia risk, and may lead to a host of other potential complications for surgery patients,” said AANA President Bruce Weiner, DNP, MSNA, CRNA. “Despite being perceived as a better alternative to tobacco cigarettes, vaping liquid contains nicotine, which significantly increases the risk for complications during and after surgery. It’s common knowledge that patients should quit smoking cigarettes at least a few weeks before and after surgery, but is it safe to “vape” before surgery? The answer is no,” said Weiner.

Nicotine can lower the effectiveness of certain medications or interfere with the way drugs work; it can also impact healing and lead to infection and greater discomfort after surgery. Though a longer period of cessation around anesthesia and surgery is most beneficial, even 12-24 hours can significantly increase the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to vital organs and tissues.

“Regardless of whether you smoke or vape, be completely honest with your Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), surgeon, or other healthcare providers about your health history,” said Weiner. Patients should disclose all allergies, medications, supplements, herbs and substances they take, in addition to nicotine. “Letting your surgeon and CRNA know your complete health history allows them to work with you to develop the comprehensive plan of care for your quick recovery,” he said. Quitting vaping and smoking has immediate and long-term benefits at any age.


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