Why you shouldn’t smoke if you’re having breast reconstruction
By: Brandy (Korman) Haslam
It is widely known that tobacco use can cause health issues, but for those patients undergoing breast reconstruction, the effects can be even more devastating.
Many patients are surprised to learn that they cannot smoke for at least six weeks before and six weeks after breast reconstruction surgery.
So why do we ask you to quit smoking?
Nicotine can affect cardiovascular health in many ways. It increases blood pressure and constricts (shrinks) blood vessels. The nicotine in just one cigarette stimulates the smooth muscle fibers in the wall of the blood vessels to contract which shrinks the blood vessels and makes them narrower. Narrower blood vessels cannot carry as much blood to the tissues.
Less blood flow means less oxygen, essential nutrients and growth factors are delivered to the tissues. This increases the risk of complications like poor wound healing, infection, blood clots, and even loss of some or all of the reconstruction. Overall, smoking can increase the complication rate of surgery by up to 40-60% (UCSD Cancer Center, 2008).
To make things even harder, the use of some forms of smoking-cessation products must also be avoided. Products like Nicorette for example contain nicotine and so cause the same tissue effects as smoking until the patient quits completely. Only smoking-cessation products that do not contain nicotine should be used prior to any surgery.
Talk with your primary care physician regarding the prescription medication, Welbutrin. Although this medication is commonly prescribed for depression, it works just as well as nicotine replacement products by reducing cravings without the use of nicotine.
It is also important to avoid others that are smoking as second-hand smoke can also cause you to have a positive nicotine test. Don’t let friends or family smoke in the house and avoid crowded smoky areas.
Although giving up nicotine may be difficult, it will greatly reduce complication risks and result in a healthier you, which is what is most important!
For questions related to smoking or for general reconstruction questions, call 800.692.5565 to speak with your nurse or patient liaison.