Bone & joint health Heart health Wellness

Got surgery coming up? Quit smoking now.

patient squishing cigarettes
Written by Alexis Dobranowski

If you have a surgery coming up, your health care team or loved ones may be encouraging you to quit smoking. Smoking and surgery, they say, don’t make a great pair.

They are right. But why? To answer that question, Dr. Chris Idestrup, Anesthesia Site Chief at Sunnybrook’s Holland Orthopaedic and Arthritic Centre, directed me to, a site maintained by Ontario’s Anesthesiologists. This site has some great info and five reasons about why it might be a good idea to quit smoking before going in for surgery.

Your lungs.

Smoking damages your lungs and that can put you at a higher risk of breathing issues from the anesthetic you need for surgery.

Being smoke-free for even just a few weeks before your surgery can help your lungs heal.

Your heart.

According to, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry to your heart. Nicotine makes your heart beat faster. Together, that puts you at a higher risk of a heart attack.

Your recovery.

If you smoke after surgery, this can slow down your healing and increase your chance of getting an infection. This is because of the reduced oxygen getting to your surgery site, slowing the normal healing process. Staying smoke-free after surgery can help your healing.

Your success at quitting for the long-term.

Changing your routine can help you quit smoking – so preparing for and undergoing surgery is a good time to switch things up. Plus, hospitals are smoke-free zones, so even a short stay in the hospital will limit your actual ability to light up. And, hospitals are full of people who can give you the necessary resources and support for quitting. Tell your doctor or another health-care provider that you have recently quit smoking or if you are in the process of quitting; they can help.

The rest of your life.

If you stay smoke-free, it’ll reduce your risk of returning to the hospital, both due to infection from this surgery and for further health issues.

From the Heart and Stroke Foundation:

  • Within one year of quitting smoking, your added risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half than that of a smoker.
  • Within five years, your risk of having a stroke will be nearly the same as a non-smoker.
  • Within 10 years, the risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half.
  • Within 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease will be similar to that of a non-smoker.

Check out and Ontario Anesthesiologist’s site for more information.

The Smoker’s Helpline has quitting support and info.

Or check out quick tips on quitting from a Sunnybrook social worker.

About the author

Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.