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Smoking greatly increases risk of complications after surgery

20 January 2020
News release

Tobacco smokers are at significantly higher risk than non-smokers for post-surgical complications including impaired heart and lung functions, infections and delayed or impaired wound healing.

But new evidence reveals that smokers who quit approximately 4 weeks or more before surgery have a lower risk of complication and better results 6 months afterwards. Patients who quit smoking tobacco are less likely to experience complications with anesthesia when compared to regular smokers. 

A new joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO), the University of Newcastle, Australia and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), shows that every tobacco-free week after 4 weeks improves health outcomes by 19%, due to improved blood flow throughout the body to essential organs.

The report provides evidence that there are advantages to postponing minor or non-emergency surgery to give patients the opportunity to quit smoking, resulting in a better health outcome,” said Dr Vinayak Prasad, Head of Unit, No Tobacco, World Health Organization.

The Nicotine and carbon monoxide, both present in cigarettes, can decrease oxygen levels and greatly increase risk of heart-related complications after surgery. Smoking tobacco also damages the lungs making it difficult for the proper amount of air to flow through, increasing the risk of post-surgical complications to the lungs. Smoking distorts a patient’s immune system and can delay healing, increasing the risk of infection at the wound site. Smoking just one cigarette decreases the body’s ability to deliver necessary nutrients for healing after surgery.

“Complications after surgery present a large burden for both the health care provider and the patient.  Primary care physicians, surgeons, nurses and families are important in supporting a patient to quit smoking at every stage of care, especially before an operation.” Explained Dr Shams Syed, Coordinator, Quality of Care, WHO. WHO encourages countries to include cessation programmes and educational campaigns in their health systems to spread awareness and help people to quit smoking. 

For more information please visit:

Tobacco and Surgical outcomes: WHO Knowledge Summary

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)

WHO Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)
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Summary | 4 Annotations
A new joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO), the University of Newcastle, Australia and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), shows that every tobacco-free week after 4 weeks improves health outcomes by 19%,
2020/01/21 02:58
The Nicotine and carbon monoxide, both present in cigarettes, can decrease oxygen levels and greatly increase risk of heart-related complications after surgery. Smoking tobacco also damages the lungs making it difficult for the proper amount of air to flow through, increasing the risk of post-surgical complications to the lungs.
2020/01/21 02:59
Complications after surgery present a large burden for both the health care provider and the patient. 
2020/01/21 02:59
WHO encourages countries to include cessation programmes and educational campaigns in their health systems to spread awareness and help people to quit smoking. 
2020/01/21 02:59