One of the major causes of preventable disease has been recognised as cigarette smoking. It is widely known that smoking is linked to heart and respiratory diseases, as well as to several cancers. Many people are however not aware that smoking has a serious negative effect on bones, muscles, and joints. Smoking therefore can often lead to poorer outcomes from orthopaedic surgery.

Cigarettes contain both nicotine and carbon monoxide, which can decrease oxygen levels and greatly increase risk of heart-related complications after surgery. Due to the damage caused to the lungs from smoking tobacco it can be difficult for the proper amount of air to flow through, increasing the risk of post-surgical complications to the lungs. Smoking compromises the patient’s immune system. This could increase the risk of infection at the wound site, as well as delay healing. By just giving in and smoking one cigarette, the body’s ability to deliver necessary nutrients for healing after surgery is decreased.

Research has shown, that smoking can have a negative effect on fracture and wound healing after surgery. It has been revealed that broken bones take longer to heal in smokers because of the harmful effects of nicotine on the production of bone-forming cells.

The single most important factor in postoperative complications may be linked to patients being smokers. The most common complications caused by smoking include:

  • Poor wound healing
  • Infection
  • Less satisfactory final outcomes of surgery

Researchers have noted that patients who quit smoking have improved outcomes for surgical treatments of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries.

Before you plan your orthopaedic surgery, be sure to talk to your surgeon about your tobacco use.


This article ” The Impact of Smoking on Surgical Outcomes”  does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor for all medical advice. 

Meet Dr Peter Smith, a leading Orthopaedic Surgeon operating from the Mediclinic Milnerton in Cape Town, Western Cape. His practice is situated in the heart of this seaside town.  Dr Peter Smith not only offers patients the full spectrum of professional orthopaedic treatments, but specialises in total knee replacement, total hip replacement, sports injuries and the latest arthroscopic surgery techniques and computer guided surgery. He gained extensive experience in the latest arthroplasty techniques during his stay of 6 years in Australia where he performed more than a hundred primary and revision hip and knee replacements cases in a year.

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