Preparing for surgery - Why you should stop smoking before an operation

June 29th 2018

The Royal College of Physicians has recommended that all smokers should take part in smoking cessation treatments before they come to hospital. If you are a smoker and you are due to have an operation the advice is simple – for the best results and for the benefit of your health, stop smoking before you have an operation.

The benefits of not smoking are:

  1. Non-smokers are less likely to suffer ill effects from anaesthetic.
  2. Non-smokers will usually make a quicker recovery than smokers, with fewer complications.
  3. If you don’t smoke, an operation scar is also likely to heal more quickly.
  4. On average, smokers spend two days longer in hospital recovering from an operation than non-smokers.
  5. Smokers are more likely to develop chest infections and blood clots after an operation and their wounds take longer to heal – smokers are 12 times more likely to develop would healing complications and they are more at risk of infection than non-smokers.
  6. Nicotine increases the heart rate and blood pressure, which adds risk to an operation as it is particularly important that the heart rate, rhythm and blood pressure are kept at a safe level.
  7. Smokers have a higher risk of blood clots and their blood clots faster than that of a non-smoker. After an operation, clots in the legs or lungs can be potentially fatal.
  8. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas found in cigarette smoke, transferring from the lungs to the blood and reducing the blood’s ability to transport oxygen. This can have many effects on the body, including the risk of serious heart attacks, stroke and gastric ulcers.
  9. During an operation a smoker’s blood carries less oxygen, and after an operation a poor oxygen supply to the wound will delay healing and reduce the risk of infection.

Advice on quitting smoking can be found at More detail about the recommendations from the Royal College of Physicians can be found at