Smoking and Orthopaedic Surgery

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July 19, 2016

Research demonstrates that there is an increased risk of infection and reduced rate of healing among people who smoke. A person has to be away from cigarettes/tobacco for a month before the negative wound effects of it are eradicated from a person's body. No wonder spine surgeons refuse to operate on a smoker unless the person has quit smoking completely as proved by a nicotine blood test. Otherwise, there is a failure-to-fuse rate of about 50%. Rotator cuff surgery is a problem area with few reports in the literature dealing with smokers with torn rotator cuffs. Rotator cuffs may not heal even in the non-smoker depending on the size and age of the patient. Add smoking and the chance of healing is dismally poor. It is very important if a person injures his shoulder to quit smoking if he needs surgery. There is a great chance that it won't heal at all. The patient will waste three to six months recuperating from rotator cuff repair only to find out that he has not healed. Not only is this costly but during the time between the injury and possibly redo surgery the muscle of the tom tendon will waste away (atrophy) such that the possibility of a good result is reduced. If you smoke... quit, if you don't. . . don't start.