Prior to anyone embarking on a cosmetic procedure at my Leamington plastic surgery practice, I cover the dos and don’ts before they proceed. One of the topics we touch on is smoking and patients are always advised to quit the habit for at least a few weeks both before and after any major procedure.
Now I read with interest a new study from America that has looked at the possible dangers of e-cigarettes. The research was backed by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and found that e-cigarettes carry similar risks to normal cigarettes, particularly in relation to healing.
Why smoking and cosmetic surgery should never mix
A cigarette contains many different chemicals that can affect blood flow and almost 7,000 compounds are produced every time you light up. One of the chief chemicals is carbon monoxide which decreases the oxygen-carrying capacity of haemoglobin in the blood stream. This differs to how nicotine affects our blood vessels but has the same result in decreasing the amount of blood – and oxygen – flowing to any wounds.
Although e-cigarettes may not contain these thousands of nasty chemicals, nicotine on its own can cause major problems. Nicotine restricts blood flow by shrinking the capillaries and this process known as vasoconstriction can compromise wound healing.
Popular cosmetic surgery procedures, such as a tummy tuck, facelift or a breast uplift, entail reshaping or moving body tissues. Your cosmetic surgeon will typically have to cut some of the blood supply, but your body is usually well able to deal with this slightly restricted blood flow and still heal well. However, when nicotine further compromises blood circulation, in some cases, not enough oxygen reaches the tissue and this can lead to wound healing issues and even a condition known as necrosis where the tissue dies off.
It’s not just a matter of wound healing. Smoking causes a rise in inflammation in the body which can, in turn, increase the chance of post-surgical complications. In a study in 2011, Dr Alparslan Turan, a professor of anaesthesiology at the Cleveland Clinic in the US, found that smokers were 57% more likely to have a cardiac arrest, 80% more likely to have a heart attack after surgery and 73% more likely to have a stroke.
Furthermore, questions have been raised about just how safe e-cigarettes are. Although Public Health England (PHE) has endorsed vaping and made the claim that it is 95% safer than normal smoking, earlier this year researchers at the European Society for Cardiology congress in Rome warned that electronic cigarettes may be “far more dangerous” than has been initially thought. Scientists monitored the impact on the aorta, the main artery into the heart. They found that a vaping session had a similar stiffening effect on the aorta as smoking an ordinary cigarette.
The good news is that within a matter of weeks of quitting smoking or vaping, the improvement in body function can prevent any major complications occurring after your operation. I advise stopping for 8 weeks before any major cosmetic surgery.
During your consultation at my Leamington cosmetic surgery clinic, we discuss all possible complications and risks as well as the benefits of a cosmetic surgery procedure, so you can make an informed decision about whether to go ahead. To arrange a consultation, call 01926 436341.