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Why Do I Need to Stop Smoking for Plastic Surgery?

There are many reasons not to smoke. Everybody knows it is not good for you. Smoking can cause heart disease and cancer. It causes bad breath and makes your clothes smell. But if you are having cosmetic plastic surgery there are very specific reasons why you should not smoke either before or after.

Heart Disease and Poor Wound Healing

For patients who are smokers, experienced board-certified plastic surgeon Robert Rothfield, MD explains the risks related to smoking and plastic surgery during the consultation.

Heart disease from smoking is the result of the accumulation, over many years, of changes to your blood vessels. Initially, smoking affects only the smallest blood vessels. Over time, the changes in the small blood vessels affect the larger blood vessels, and eventually these changes ultimately affect the heart. Someone with heart disease is typically not a good candidate for any elective cosmetic surgery due to potential complications with anesthesia—in extreme cases, heart arrhythmia or a heart attack could result.

However, it is not the changes to the heart caused by smoking that are most detrimental to cosmetic surgery. It is the short-term changes that take place in the small blood vessels, as a result of smoking, that can be the most problematic. Smoking causes these small blood vessels to constrict, which then reduces blood flow and oxygenation. This can adversely affect healing and may lead to open wounds, delayed healing, and poor-quality scars.

Your Outcome

The goal of cosmetic surgery is to improve a condition from good to better. Everything is done to achieve this goal. And because cosmetic surgery is elective, it should be done only when all of the variables that are controllable, such as smoking, are optimized. Not smoking will not guarantee perfect results or eliminate the potential for complications; however, abstaining will make it much more likely that the outcome you desire is the outcome you will get.

Talk with Dr. Rothfield

If you are a smoker and concerned about whether or not you are a candidate for plastic surgery, we encourage you to schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Rothfield. He will perform a thorough physical exam, review your medical history, listen to your aesthetic goals, and discuss if cosmetic surgery is the right choice for you. For some patients, quitting smoking approximately six weeks prior to surgery is sufficient, but each case is different.

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on October 6, 2009.

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