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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 00:44 GMT
Smoking 'damages surgery recovery'
Smoking can lead to complications
Smokers should abstain from the habit for at least six weeks before surgery to reduce the risk complications, a study suggests.

Tobacco smoke has a damaging effect on the heart, lungs and immune system.

Smoking is a risk factor for wound infection and cardiopulmonary complications in almost any type of surgery

Dr Ann Moller
This means they are more likely to suffer from problems with the heart or lungs, or with wounds not healing properly after surgery.

Researchers from Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark, examined the impact that smoking had on the rate of post-surgery complications in patients who underwent hip and knee replacement operations.

They found that smokers who were given help to quit or reduce their habit were much less likely to suffer complications (18%) than those who were given no help to cut back (52%).

They were six times less likely to suffer from problems with wound healing, and on average were kept in hospital for two days less than those who were not helped.

Not one person who was helped to cut back suffered cardiovascular complications.

Broad risk

Researcher Dr Ann Moller said: "Smoking is a risk factor for wound infection and cardiopulmonary complications in almost any type of surgery.

"Smokers make up a considerable proportion of the total number of postoperative complications.

"If preoperative smoking intervention can reduce these complications, the savings in personal suffering and financial expense should be substantial."

Dr Moller said that people should be given help to quit smoking six to eight weeks before they were due to undergo surgery.

Smoking cessation expert Professor Godfrey Fowler, of the department of general practice at Oxford University, told BBC News Online he was not surprised by the findings.

He said: "There is more and more evidence of the benefits of smoking cessation.

"If somebody is due to have surgery it would be a good opportunity for them to take the initiative to stop smoking.

"People often say how long will I have to wait before I see the benefits of giving up smoking. In this case the benefits would be very rapid."

The research is published in The Lancet medical journal.

See also:

10 Jan 02 | Health
Passive smoke greater in the home
14 Dec 01 | Health
Smoking in movies under fire
21 Aug 01 | Health
Smoking: The sex divide
16 Jul 01 | Health
'Clean up cigarettes'
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