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Stop Before Your Op
By Paul Grob   View more articles by this author
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October 1

If you are a smoker and about to have surgery, it makes a lot of sense to minimise your risks. Now is the time to think about stopping smoking.

We know it is difficult to stop however smoking greatly increases the chances of complications during and after surgery.

The Benefits of giving up before your operation are numerous:


  • Smokers usually require more anaesthetic than normal, thus stopping before surgery will mean you will require less anaesthetic which will speed up your recovery.
  • There is less likelihood of you developing a chest infection following surgery - smokers have a one in three risk of this complication and that means a lot of coughing post-operatively which is going to hurt!
  • Wounds will heal more quickly, because smoking causes a reduced amount of oxygen circulating in the bloodstream, and the effect of nicotine is to impede the production of essential healing elements in the body.
  • There is a lower risk of developing dangerous blood clots after surgery.
  • There will be less need for pain relief after surgery.

Did you know health benefits begin the moment you give up smoking? Within the first hour your blood pressure and pulse will return to normal. After 24 hours the carbon monoxide leaves your body and within 48 hours your body will be nicotine free!

After a few weeks you will notice your food tastes better, your lungs are clearer and you have more energy, and after 12 weeks your circulation will be improved throughout your body.

Research shows that the sooner you stop before the op, the better. Stopping one month before your op can make a tremendous difference to the speed of your recovery, however ideally you should aim to give up eight weeks before surgery as this greatly reduces the risk of you developing complications.

We do appreciate it is not always possible to give up in advance of your op, especially for those undergoing emergency surgery, however giving up smoking for just a few days can make a big difference to your recovery, remembering that carbon monoxide and nicotine are cleared from your body within 48 hours.

Help and Support

Please remember you are up to four times more likely to quit with help and support. Go to the Smokefree website to find out more about what is available to you in your area.

You can also download the Smoking and Surgery fact sheet by Action on Smoking and Health.

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