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Stop smoking before your operation

If you are coming in to hospital for an operation, and you are a smoker, we strongly advise you to stop smoking as soon as possible because this will help you make the best possible recovery.   

Watch our short video to see why stopping smoking before your operation can have a significant impact on your recovery and reduce the risks of complications:   

Why is it important to stop smoking before an operation?                

After an operation non-smokers are less likely to suffer ill effects from an anaesthetic.  They will usually make a quicker recovery than smokers, with less complications, and an operation scar is likely to heal more quickly.               

Giving up smoking before your operation can reduce the risk of complications and improve your recovery                

As soon as you quit smoking your body begins to repair itself straight away              

The longer you manage to stay stopped the more repair work your body can do.                

Research shows that on average, smokers spend two days longer in hospital recovering from an operation than non smokers             

What are the risks for smokers?                

  • Smokers are more likely to develop chest infections and blood clots in their legs or lungs after an operation. Their wounds will be slower to heal and they will generally make a slower recovery. They may also be at more risk of infection than non-smokers.       

  • Smokers have a one-in-three risk of post-operative breathing problems.       

  • Smokers are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital in the first place.  

  • Smoking can also contribute to the development of post-operative lung and heart problems.

  • Smokers are 12 times more likely to develop wound healing complications.


What problems does smoking cause?                

Chest infections                

Our lungs are lined with tiny, hair-like structures called cilia.  In normal circumstances these cilia move mucus up and out of the air passages.  Smoking causes paralysis of the cilia so they are unable to remove mucus, dust or impurities from the lungs.  This makes smokers much more likely to develop chest infections, particularly after a general anaesthetic.                


The nicotine in cigarette smoke increases the heart rate and raises the blood pressure.  During an operation it is particularly important that the heart rate, rhythm and blood pressure are kept at a safe level.                

Blood clotting                

Smokers tend to have a high level of substances in the blood that cause it to clot.  This means the blood in a smoker's body has a tendency to clot faster than that of a non-smoker.  After an operation the risk of blood clots developing in the legs and lungs is increased - this can be potentially fatal.                

Carbon monoxide                

This is a poisonous gas found in cigarette smoke.  It transfers from the lungs of smokers to their blood, reducing the blood's ability to transport oxygen.  This can have many effects on the body, including increasing the risk of serious heart attacks, strokes and gastric ulcers.  During an operation smokers' blood carries less oxygen than that of non-smokers; this starves the heart and brain and may cause heart attacks and strokes.  After an operation poor oxygen supply to the wound will delay healing and increase the risk of infection.                

What you should do                

The wisest thing for you to do is to give up smoking completely as soon as possible.  Northampton General Hospital is a smoke-free site.  If you do not feel ready to quit smoking you should consider using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as patches to make your hospital stay more comfortable and also make your stay safer.  These are products that can be used instead of smoking for a short period of time whilst you are in hospital.                

The longer you have stopped smoking before your operation the better, but it is important that you are on NRT before you come in to hospital.                 

Getting advice and support to quit                

Expert advisors are on hand to give you individual or group support in a variety of locations and can advise you of the range of nicotine replacement therapy available. If you've tried before and not been successful don't worry it can often take several attempts to stop for good! To find out the times of the week and where you can access stop smoking support and to book your place, please call the NHS Stop Smoking Service on 0300 123 1044 or complete the online form in the contact us section of the website. Did you know... your local GP or pharmacist may also be able to offer one to one stop smoking support.

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