What effect does smoking have on cosmetic surgery?

February 11, 2014

Aside from the well known ill-effects of cigarette smoking, nicotine use can lead to major complications following plastic and cosmetic surgical procedures. Cigarette smokers will inevitably wake from general anesthetic procedures with extra build up in their chests and throats. This can lead to coughing and straining which can disrupt sutures and even cause surgical incisions to start bleeding in the immediate post-operative period. Even more important is the impact cigarette smoke has on blood flow. Nicotine is an extremely potent vasoconstrictor which causes the flow of blood to be severely restricted to tissues. Under normal, everyday circumstances, this effect may not be noticeable to an average smoker. But when a surgical incision is healing, tissues need robust blood flow into the healing areas as it is blood flow that brings oxygen and other factors vital to healing into the area. The constriction of blood flow caused by even a single cigarette can push a wound “over the edge” and create an environment in which not enough circulation is reaching the healing zone. This can lead to enormous problems with healing such as dead skin (necrosis), infection and poor scarring.

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