With the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout Challenge just a week away, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is giving smokers yet another reason to quit. The scientific evidence is clear -- smoking has a direct negative impact on postoperative outcomes. Quitting smoking is one of the best things people can do to improve their chances of recovering from surgery without complications.

"Anesthesiologists are the heart and lung specialists in the operating room, making sure our patients' vital functions are working properly," said David O. Warner, M.D., chair of the ASA Smoking Cessation Initiative Task Force. "Every year, we care for up to 10 million smokers in surgery. (1,2) , We see the immense toll that smoking takes on a person's body, but we also witness the tremendous benefits patients who stop smoking before surgery experience in their healing process."

Because patients are advised to abstain from smoking for as long as possible both before and after surgery, it represents a golden opportunity for people to take action to quit. When confronted with surgery, many patients decide to take stock of their lives and change their behaviors. This defining moment is a great opportunity to commit to quitting, as it will have a significant impact on one's quality of life for years to come.

In addition to the well-established health risks associated with smoking, the ASA has additional compelling reasons for people who may be undergoing surgery to quit smoking:

- Patients who quit smoking heal better.

Continuing to smoke after surgery greatly heightens a person's chances for complications, such as infections in the surgical incision. In one study, more than half of patients who continued smoking after surgery developed complications compared to less than 20 percent (3) who quit. Plus, fewer complications means less time in the hospital for patients that have kicked the habit.

- Hospitals are smoke free.

Once a patient is admitted to the hospital for a procedure, it becomes challenging to leave for a cigarette. Smokers can take advantage of that barrier and use it as the first step on their way to a smoke-free lifestyle. Plus, hospitals are filled with resources, including counselors and medications, which are readily available to help.

-The body begins to heal within hours of quitting.

'There's no point in quitting now because the damage is already done' is not a good excuse. Twelve hours after a person has given up the habit, his or her heart and lungs already begin to function better, as the nicotine and carbon monoxide levels start dropping. It takes less than a day for blood flow to improve, which reduces the likelihood for post-operative complications. The ASA recommends that patients abstain from smoking for as long as possible before and after surgery, but even quitting for a brief period is still beneficial.

- Help is always available.

Whether someone is preparing for surgery or just thinking about quitting, free help is always available. By calling 1-800-QuitNow, smokers connect with trained specialists that provide advice and a customized plan to help them quit. Smokers who attempt to quit without treatment typically relapse within the first eight days (4) and only 4 - 7 percent are likely to be successful.(5) - but services such as 1-800-QuitNow can double their chances of success.

On top of these reasons, it's always important to remind people that quitting adds years to one's life. On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers. (6)

Please visit LifelinetoModernMedicine for more information on smoking cessation.

1.Hall MJ, Lawrence L: Ambulatory surgery in the United States, 1996. Adv Data 1998; 300:1-16

2.DeFrances CJ, Hall MJ: 2005 National Hospital Discharge Survey. Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics; no 385. Hyattsville, MD, National Center for Health Statistics, 2007

3.Moller et al, Lancet 359:114, 2002

4raballo et al, MMWR: Cigarette Smoking among Adults - United States. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC. 2008


6.U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 2007

American Society of Anesthesiologists

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