Northside Health Library

Smoking and surgery


Many smokers have become dependent on the positive effects of nicotine, such as boosting their mood, improving short-term memory and concentration, and producing a sense of well-being.

Quitting smoking and other tobacco products before surgery can make the results of your hip surgery turn out better.

Most smokers in the United States would like to quit smoking. Most people who have quit smoking have made at least one unsuccessful quit attempt in the past. Try not to view past attempts to quit as failures, but rather as learning experiences.

There are Many Reasons to Quit Using Tobacco

When used over a long period, tobacco and related chemicals such as tar and nicotine can increase your risk of many health problems.

Heart and blood vessel problems:

  • Blood clots and aneurysms in the brain, which can lead to strokes
  • Coronary artery disease, including chest pain (angina) and heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor blood supply to the legs
  • Problems with erections

It can increase your risk for cancer (especially in the lung, mouth, larynx, esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, and cervix).

It can increase your risk for lung problems, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis or asthma that is harder to control.

Some smokers will switch to smokeless tobacco instead of quitting tobacco completely. However, they still carry a number of health risks:

  • Increased risk of mouth or nasal cancer
  • Gum problems, tooth wear, and cavities
  • Worsening high blood pressure and chest pain

Smoking and Hip Replacement Surgery

After hip replacement surgery, there is an increased chance of blood clots forming in the legs. These clots may travel to the lungs. Smoking increases the chance of these clots forming.

Smoking decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches the cells in your surgical wound. As a result, your wound may heal more slowly and is more likely to become infected.

All smokers carry an increased risk for heart and lung problems. Even when your hip replacement surgery goes smoothly, it places more demand on your body, heart, and lungs.

Making the Decision to Quit

Most doctors want you to stop cigarettes and tobacco at least 4 weeks before your hip replacement. The key is to not be discouraged, even if you have smoked for a long time. Stretching the time between quitting smoking and your surgery out to 10 weeks or more can decrease your risk of problems even more.

Like any addiction, quitting tobacco is difficult, especially if you are acting alone. There are many ways to quit smoking and many resources to help you.

Family members, friends, and coworkers may be supportive or encouraging.

  • Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy and smoking cessation medications.
  • If you join smoking cessation programs, you have a much better chance of success. Such programs are offered by hospitals, health departments, community centers, and work sites.

Using nicotine gum around the time of surgery is not encouraged. The nicotine will still interfere with healing of your surgical wound and have the same effect on your general health.

Review Date: 8/17/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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