As someone considering plastic surgery, the worst thing you can do is lie to your doctor, especially when it comes to smoking. Take note that the use of tobacco products can lead to a wide array of risks, which can be prevented or at least minimized by avoiding them well in advanced of your operation.
Dr. Tarick Smaili, one of the leading experts in Los Angeles plastic surgery, says the “general rule of thumb” is to avoid tobacco and smoking cessation products like nicotine gum and patch at least three weeks before and after surgery. The idea, he further explains, is to flush out the nicotine and other chemical toxins known to impede healing.
Dr. Smaili says any prudent plastic surgeon will not operation on heavy smokers because of the low oxygen content in their body due to the effects of nicotine known to constrict blood vessels. This detrimental effect makes them at risk of developing skin necrosis in which the wound and tissue around it turns black and literally dies.
One of the subsequent complications of skin necrosis, he warns, is “unnecessary” scarring especially if the surgery involves extensive skin incisions or excisions such as facelift, breast lift, breast reduction, tummy tuck, and body lift after weight loss.
The poor healing effects of smoking have been well documented, with studies suggesting that smokers are 12 times more likely to suffer from skin necrosis after facelift and tummy tuck than non-smokers. Cigarette smoke exposure, including “second-hand” smoking, has also been linked to more than 70 percent of skin slough, or the process of shedding dead surface cells.
According to a study involving about 400 patients considering plastic surgery or elective procedure, 9 percent admitted being an active smoker, while around 33 percent said that they had quit smoking, although a urine nicotine analysis showed that many of them were lying.
Remember that even smoking just one “stick” may be enough to jeopardize your healing and postop results. For this reason, today’s plastic surgeons typically require blood and urine test to determine any presence of nicotine even if their patients have claimed that they are not a smoker or they have already quit.
Aside from smoking, other factors that could lead to poor scarring and healing problems include blood-thinners such as aspirin and ibuprofen, medical conditions such as hypertension and heart disorder, and alcohol abuse, the leading Los Angeles plastic surgery warns.