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Smoking Greatly Increases Risk Of Post-surgery Complications:WHO

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Tobacco smokers are at significantly higher risk than non-smokers to develop post-surgical complications, a new study says.

This includes impaired heart and lung functions, infections and delayed or impaired wound healing, according to a joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO), the University of Newcastle, Australia and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA).

However, there is good news for smokers who quit the bad habit approximately 4 weeks or more before surgery - they have a lower risk of complication and better results 6 months afterwards.

Patients who quit smoking tobacco are less likely to experience complications with anesthesia when compared to regular smokers, the study says, citing new evidence.

It has also been found that every tobacco-free week after surgery improves health outcomes by 19 percent, due to improved blood flow throughout the body to essential organs.

"The report provides evidence that there are advantages to postponing minor or non-emergency surgery to give patients the opportunity to quit smoking, resulting in a better health outcome," said Dr Vinayak Prasad, Head of Unit, No Tobacco, World Health Organization.

The Nicotine and carbon monoxide, that are inhaled while smoking cigarettes, can decrease oxygen levels and greatly increase risk of heart-related complications after surgery.

Smoking tobacco also damages the lungs making it difficult for the proper amount of air to flow through, increasing the risk of post-surgical complications to the lungs. Smoking distorts a patient's immune system and can delay healing, increasing the risk of infection at the wound site.

Even if a person is smoking just one cigarette a day, that is enough to cut the body's ability to deliver necessary nutrients for healing after surgery.

"Complications after surgery present a large burden for both the health care provider and the patient," said Dr Shams Syed, Coordinator, Quality of Care, WHO. He stressed the importance of primary care physicians, surgeons, nurses and families in supporting a patient to quit smoking at every stage of care, especially before an operation.

WHO urged governments to include cessation programs and educational campaigns in their health systems to spread awareness and help people quit smoking.

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