Quitting smoking 4 weeks before an operation reduces the risk of complications, according to the WHO


People who quit smoking, even 4 weeks before surgery, have a lower risk of post-operative complications, according to a study published Monday by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Despite a general consensus that quitting smoking before an operation can have a positive impact on the patient’s health, there has so far been some controversy about when to quit smoking, WHO says .

“New evidence shows that smokers who quit smoking about 4 weeks or more before the surgery have a lower risk of complications,” the specialized UN agency said in a statement.

Six months after their operation, these people recover better than those who had not stopped smoking.

After an operation, the human body does everything it can to heal and fight possible infections, a process that increases the need for oxygen and nutrients. Now the nicotine and carbon monoxide, present in cigarettes, can decrease the oxygen levels present in the body, increasing the risk of post-operative complications, detailed the WHO.

The joint study by the WHO, the University of Newcastle in Australia and the World Federation of Societies of Anesthetists (FMSA) shows that from 4 weeks of smoking cessation, each additional week without tobacco improves by 19% the patient’s state of health, thanks to better blood circulation.

Patients who quit smoking are also less likely to experience complications from anesthesia, the study found.

WHO encourages countries to include cessation programs and education campaigns in their health systems to help people quit smoking.

“Report shows benefits of postponing minor or elective surgery to give patients the opportunity to quit smoking, which results in better health outcomes,” said Dr. Vinayak Prasad , head of the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative.

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