Shoulder surgery, like any surgery, doesn’t come without its risks. However, in certain patients these risks are elevated. And it seems that smokers are particularly vulnerable to complications after shoulder surgery.
The impact of tobacco use on complications after hip and knee surgery has been well documented, but a recent study in The Bone and Joint Journal has looked at whether smokers are at increased risk of poor medical and surgical outcomes after shoulder arthroplasty.
Here, we’ll look at how smoking increases risks after shoulder surgery and why now is a great time to quit.
What risks do smokers face after surgery?
According to studies, the main risks smokers face after surgery include poor wound healing, infection and less than optimal final outcomes.
The study in The Bone and Joint Journal analysed a total of 196,325 non-smokers (93.1%) and 14,461 smokers (6.9%) that underwent TSA during a five-year study period. Smokers had increased rates of 30- and 90-day readmission, revision within 90 days, infection, wound complications, and instability of the prosthetic joint.
In another study, featuring 235 patients, it was discovered that good results were seen in 84% of non-smokers, yet just 35% in smokers. This shows just how significant the effects of smoking can be. With less than half of smokers experiencing good results, it shows just how significant the risks are.
Smokers have also been found to suffer more pain before and after shoulder surgery. This is because cigarettes have a detrimental impact on the healing of the bone and soft tissue. Infection rates are also higher and there is also an increased risk of surgical revision.
Why does smoking increase shoulder surgery risks?
The reason smoking increases the risks of surgery is because it causes the heart and lungs to not function as well as they should. This can lead to breathing difficulties during and after the procedure.
Smoking is also known to reduce blood flow. This is what slows down the healing process, increasing the risk of infection. It is also known to contribute towards heart disease. This in turn will increase the risk of a heart attack during and after surgery.
Will quitting before the surgery make a difference?
Smokers are always recommended to quit prior to undergoing surgery. Did you know that even if you just quit the day before the surgery, it can still greatly reduce the risks? This is down to the fact that the minute you stop smoking, the body automatically starts to heal itself. All of the harmful chemicals and toxins start to decrease immediately. This improves blood flow, reducing the risk of poor healing.
However, while you can benefit from stopping the day before, the sooner you quit the better the outcome will be. Ideally, you should quit at least a week before the surgery. You’ll also want to avoid smoking during recovery. For this reason, it is the perfect time for smokers to quit for good.
All of the evidence collected through numerous studies, points to smokers having increased risks during and after shoulder surgery. While patients obviously know smoking isn’t good for their health, few realise just how much it increases their risk of recovery. If you need shoulder surgery and you’re a smoker, now is the time to think of quitting for good. If you don’t, you may not receive the best results and you could end up needing a revision surgery.
For more advice on how best to prepare for shoulder surgery, call us on 0203 195 2442.