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'Thighlighting': The Next Big Thing in Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgery can make you look like a different person, but a new study from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, says plastic surgery can also help people stop smoking. The Canadian researchers found that patients who quit smoking before their plastic surgery procedure were more likely to stop smoking for good.

Plastic surgeons frequently ask their patients to quit smoking for a minimum of two weeks before their surgery to facilitate healing and minimize the risk of complications and infection.


The study evaluated 85 smokers who were asked to refrain from smoking for two weeks before their surgical procedures. Five years after their surgery, study authors sent participants a follow-up questionnaire about their smoking habits since their surgery.

Forty-seven patients responded to the survey. Overall, most of the responding participants reduced their smoking habit by some amount. Seventy percent of patients who responded to the survey said they quit entirely or reduced how frequently they smoked after discussing their increased risk of complications with their surgeon.

Forty percent of respondents said they no longer smoked on a daily basis, and 25 percent said they had not smoked at all since their surgery.

Complications Caused by Cigarettes


Half of the responding participants reported they continued smoking up until their procedure, despite warnings from their surgeon.

The study also found that people who continued to smoke after their surgery had a 10 percent greater risk of developing post-surgical complications than participants who stopped smoking or at least reduced how frequently they smoked.

"Smoking increases complications after surgery because healing requires blood and oxygen," according to Dr. Jack Peterson, M.D.

Peterson is a Topeka, Kansas, plastic surgeon who cautions all his patients to quit smoking for a minimum of three weeks before their surgical procedure.

"Smoking constricts the blood vessels, which means blood and oxygen do not make it to the surgical site. When this happens, tissue begins to die, and healing slows down considerably," Peterson said.

The longer a wound takes to heal, the greater the patient's risk of developing an infection. Infections further complicate healing, and if left untreated, leave individuals at risk for serious health complications, disfigurement and even death.

Wounds that take a long time to heal also are at risk of greater scarring and compromised surgery results.

"The impact of smoking on healing is so significant that it can change the resulting look of the treatment area after the procedure," Peterson said.

Plastic surgeons are not the only physicians who urge patients to quit. The American Society of Anesthesiologists also recommends that people stop smoking before their procedures as smoking can cause complications with anesthesia and increase the risk of developing dangerous blood clots.

Not Just Cigarettes

It is not just cigarettes that patients need to think about - all products that contain nicotine should be off limits before and after surgery.

"Nicotine gum, patches, chewing tobacco and even using electronic cigarettes cause blood vessels to constrict and put individuals at risk of complications and infection," Peterson said.

Consuming alcoholic beverages also impacts surgical outcomes and increases complications during healing. According to specialists at the Charite University Hospital in Berlin, patients who drink two or more alcoholic beverages per day for an extended period have an increased risk of post-surgical complications like excess bleeding.

Patients who drink two or more alcoholic drinks per day are also at risk of developing lung infections, like pneumonia.

"Individuals going under the knife should also stop drinking for at least three weeks before and after their surgery procedure," Peterson said.

Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Cosmetic Surgery May Help Patients Quit Smoking. ASPS. 29 August 2017. 

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