It is not often that you receive a caution against stopping smoking. However, despite medical evidence to the contrary, some medical literature supported the concept that stopping smoking before surgery posed a risk.
Interpretations of prior studies linked increased postoperative pulmonary complications to stopping smoking less than eight weeks before surgery. One study of 39 patients, published in 1989, that suggested “stopping smoking leads to a decrease in coughing and an increase in sputum production,” helped perpetuate the belief of an increased risk.
Mayo Clinic recently released a study, published in Anesthesia & Analgesia, that finds the claim unsubstantiated.
Researchers reviewed previous smoking studies and compared patients who recently quit smoking to those who continue to smoke. Nine studies met the selection criteria. Results revealed one study showed a benefit of recent quitting while none showed any harm associated with stopping smoking within eight weeks of surgery.
Researchers agreed that patients who quit smoking several months before surgery receive a greater pulmonary benefit than those who recently quit. They also acknowledge the small sample of studies and reviewed data does not provide a definitive answer to the proposed risk.
Reviewers of the study recommend large, high-quality perioperative tobacco-use studies, particularly in light of the estimated 70 million adult smokers who have surgery every year, many of them under anesthesia.