The risks of smoking before and after plastic surgery

02 November 2018

Pack of cigarrettes with one poking outBy Plastic Surgeon Dr Dirk Kremer.

If you’re a smoker thinking about plastic surgery, then you’re probably curious about the affects it can have on the procedure. This is something you’ll discuss with your plastic surgeon, and you’ll be told that the best thing you can do is put a stop to the smoking due to the complications that can arise with your surgery.

It’s important to note that the issues lay with nicotine, so cigarette and cigar alternatives are also a huge no-no and must be avoided. Things like nicotine patches, chewing tobacco, nicotine gum, snuff, pipes, and the growing craze of e-vaping all need to be avoided despite some of them being dressed up as better options. If you’re surrounded by friends or family who smoke, then send them outside and keep your distance while they do so.

What happens if I smoke and have plastic surgery?

Your plastic surgeon will advise that you stop smoking both before and after the cosmetic procedure so that the risk of tissue death can be limited. If you neglect this advice and continue to smoke, then the area of your face or body that is operated on will be in real danger of being lost.

By lost, I mean quite literally. For example, a patient who smokes or consumes nicotine in any form and undergoes a breast augmentation or breast reduction procedure is at risk of experiencing tissue death which can result in the nipples discolouring before falling off. A facelift could result in the loss of cheek skin, and the same applies for tummy skin with a tummy tuck. This sort of disastrous outcome is termed tissue necrosis in the medical world, and I’m sure it’s something all smokers will be very keen to avoid when undergoing any plastic surgery procedure.

How does nicotine cause tissue necrosis?

Adequate blood flow to the area of the face or body that has been operated on is vital during the recovery of a plastic surgery procedure. It helps to ensure that recovery takes place as quickly and as efficiently as possible, as well as providing the best results possible. Nicotine and carbon monoxide can reduce or completely stop the blood flow which can cause the operated part of the body to die and fall off.

Other problems caused by mixing nicotine with plastic surgery:

  • Infections
  • Prolonged healing time
  • Death of fat cells (fat necrosis), which causes hard lumps
  • Scars that are far more visible than usual
  • Blood clots (which can be fatal)
  • Increased pain
  • Small vessel damage that can be permanent
  • Loss of breast implants
  • Increase in the likelihood of life-threatening complications (stroke, blood clots, heart attack and pneumonia)

Quit nicotine as soon as possible

The advice is clear and simple; if you’re thinking about having plastic surgery, then the best thing you can do is stop smoking right now. If you’re consuming nicotine in any other form, then the same applies - stop now!

Plastic surgeons will advise that you quit at least three to six weeks before the surgery is scheduled, and that you refrain from smoking and consuming nicotine for at least three to six weeks after, although it’d be best for you to find the strength to quit right now and make it forever.

Be honest with your plastic surgeon

If you struggle with quitting in the lead-up to your plastic surgery, then it’s best to be totally honest with your plastic surgeon. We completely understand how difficult it can be, but your health and well-being are of utmost importance, so it’s far better to put the surgery back a few weeks than for you to keep it a secret and suffer potentially catastrophic results.

Alcohol is another substance that should be avoided if your surgery date is fast approaching, so be sure to read up on why you should say no to alcohol if you’re scheduled for plastic surgery.

If you’re considering a cosmetic procedure, then don’t hesitate to get in touch today. We can discuss all the options available to you and I will be able to answer all questions and concerns that you may have that relate to the surgical operation itself or how your lifestyle may impact it.


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