Smoking increases infection risk and delays healing

There are theoretical reasons to expect that chemicals in cigarette smoke, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide, would reduce the ability of blood to carry oxygen to the site of a surgical incision. This could increase the risk of infection, as white blood cells need oxygen in order to kill bugs. It could also delay wound healing.  Cells involved in wound healing often have nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and may not function normally in the presence of high levels of nicotine.

Smoking makes bone fractures heal more slowly. Spinal fusion operations fail twice as often in smokers as in patients who never smoked.

Does stopping smoking make a difference? Absolutely. In one study, stopping smoking for four weeks reduced the wound infection rate from 12% in smokers to 2% in non-smokers. Smokers who did not smoke after spinal surgery did almost as well as non-smokers.

Less risk of wound infections and better healing – two more good reasons to Stop Smoking for Safer Surgery.