Three reasons to quit smoking before reconstructive breast surgery

Cigarette_smoking4 blog finalBreast reconstruction can help breast cancer survivors feel physically and emotionally complete. New treatments, as well as improved reconstructive surgery techniques, mean that women who have breast cancer today have more choices for reconstruction and better outcomes.

If you are thinking about having reconstructive surgery, talk about it with your breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon experienced in breast reconstruction before your initial surgery. This allows you and the surgical team to create the best treatment plan for you. This is especially true if you are a smoker.

Smokers heal poorly, especially when undergoing procedures requiring a flap of tissue to repair the wound. Some plastic surgeons will not perform breast reconstruction for their patients unless they stop smoking, since the risk of complications is so high.

Dr. Shayan Izaddoost, associate professor in Baylor College of Medicine’s Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery and a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction, explains why smokers should quit before surgery.

Smoking hinders normal heart and lung function

Smoking compromises both heart and lung function. This increases the patient’s risk of heart and lung complications during and after surgery. For instance, a study found that smokers had a 77 percent greater risk of heart attack after surgery than nonsmokers.

Smoking complicates anesthesia

The lungs of smokers do not respond to anesthesia in the same way as the lungs of non-smokers. Smokers’ lungs are more prone to complications associated with anesthesia, such as pneumonia.

Smoking interferes with wound healing

Smoking can slow down and interfere with the healing of skin and other body tissues. Smokers are more likely to have wound infection after surgery, longer healing times, longer hospital stays, problems with new scars opening up, poor scarring, and less favorable appearance of the reconstructed breast when compared to people who don’t smoke or who have stopped smoking.

Reduce Risks

To reduce these and other risks associated with smoking, Dr. Izaddoost urges his patients to quit the habit at least six weeks before surgery and not resume it after the procedure. With wide access to smoking cessation counseling and assistive methods, patients are able to better prepare themselves for the best outcome possible.

Additional Resources

Considering breast reconstruction? Learn more about Baylor’s Center for Plastic Surgery.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Izaddoost, call 713-798-6305.

Video: Watch Dr. Izaddoost explain how he helps patients with reconstructive needs for breasts and abdomen after a cancer diagnosis. 

By Ana María Rodríguez, Ph.D., senior medical editor in Baylor’s Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery

One thought on “Three reasons to quit smoking before reconstructive breast surgery

  • I was under the impression that people that go through the horrors of surviving breast cancer would at least try to stay away from known carcinogens. While your article mentions the problem of healing the tissues, what about the new symptoms that would soon develop.


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