Why Quit Smoking Before Having Spine Surgery?

Why You Should Quit Smoking Before Having Spinal Surgery

quit-smoking-before-spinal-surgeryThe first surgeon general’s warning on the effects of smoking was issued in 1964. Today, smoking is a habit shared by nearly 40 million Americans. From an increased risk of developing lung and esophageal cancer to strong links to osteoporosis and bone fractures, the dangers of smoking have been well documented. However, what you may not know is how the substances in cigarettes could affect your spine and its tissues, especially if you are planning to have surgery.

It’s More Difficult for Tissues to Health

Nicotine, the main ingredient in cigarettes, slows down circulation. The circulation of nutrient-rich blood to tissues in and around the spine promotes healing after spine surgery. When circulation is reduced, you may also experience:

• Slow healing around the incision site
• Increased post-surgery pain
• A longer recovery period, even with minimally invasive procedures
• Increased reliance on post-surgery pain medications

Implanted Hardware May Loosen or Slip Out of Place

With fusion surgery, the most common type of spine surgery performed in the United States, a healing spine needs an environment that promotes healing and growth. When a spine is healing slowly, hardware must support the weight of the body’s movement for a longer period. This extra wear and tear on screws, rods, and other components that are stabilizing the spine may cause hardware to loosen or slip out of place. In some instances, slow healing may cause a fusion not to form at all.

Increases the Risk of Failed Spine Surgery

If your body can’t heal properly, your surgery may not be effective. If this is the case, you’ll likely experience the same symptoms you had prior to your surgery, or your pain may be worse. Even if your surgery doesn’t involve a fusion, you may still need a revision procedure if your spine and supporting structures aren’t healing correctly.

Participating in Post-Surgery Physical Therapy May Be Challenging

The purpose of physical therapy after surgery is to restore the strength of the muscles that support the spine. If circulation is reduced, your pain may linger to the point where it becomes difficult to fully participate in physical therapy sessions. If you’re experiencing ongoing pain, you may also be less likely to perform recommended exercises between sessions. This inactivity could place added pressure on your healing spine.

There’s a Greater Infection Risk

The specialized cells that facilitate the healing process may not get to your incision site as quickly if circulation is affected, which means you’ll be at an increased risk for infection. If your incision site becomes severely infected, you may be put on a heavy dose of antibiotics, or it may be necessary to re-open the wound and clear out the infection.

Preexisting Conditions May Be More Difficult to Manage

Smokers are more likely to have underlying health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory ailments, and peripheral artery disease. If these preexisting conditions are difficult to manage, you may be at an increased risk for surgical complications.

There Could Be Issues with Anesthesia

There is no conclusive evidence suggesting anesthesia is riskier for smokers than non-smokers. However, there’s research suggesting smokers are more likely to experience nausea and other side effects sometimes associated with anesthesia when it wears off after surgery.

How to Quit Smoking

It’s one thing if your Los Angeles spine surgeon advises you to quit smoking prior to surgery and another thing to achieve this goal. While it can be difficult to stop, there are cessation programs that may be helpful. It may also be easier to quit smoking with:

• Behavioral therapy
• Support from friends and family members
• Nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, or sprays

Note: Avoid prescription medications that curb nicotine cravings since these drugs may interfere with anesthesia.

If you don’t smoke but you live with someone who does, you may still experience some of the issues common among smokers due to secondhand exposure. You don’t have to ask family members, roommates, or friends to quit. However, it’s not an unreasonable request to ask them to smoke outside or not around you until after you’ve recovered from your spine surgery.

Get in touch with The Spine Institute today if you’re experiencing chronic pain in your neck and back and believe you might need minimally invasive surgery. Call 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.

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