Smoking and Bariatric Surgery: All You Need to Know

We’ve all heard all about the dangers of smoking time and time again. However, beyond the risks involving pulmonary and heart disease, the implications of smoking for folks who are overweight and considering bariatric surgery can be even more precarious. In the surgical realm, cigarette smoking is a no-no for any procedure because it complicates healing

Reasons to Quit Tobacco If You Are Thinking of Having a Bariatric Surgery

For most patients, the risks involved in undergoing bariatric surgery are relatively low; however, risk levels are twice as high for smokers. For instance, a bariatric surgery patient who smokes is more likely to develop an infection, which can severely complicate outcomes and even lead to death.

Four problematic outcomes confirm that smoking and bariatric surgery do not mix: stomach ulcers, blood clots, pulmonary complications, and impaired ability for wounds to heal. Let’s go through a quick overview of each one to illustrate why you want to avoid them.

Because weight-loss surgeries interrupt blood flow to the stomach, an ulcer might not heal properly, which could cause you pain every time you eat. If the ulcer is perforated, you would experience severe abdominal pain and require further surgery. Marginal stomach ulcers are not uncommon among bariatric surgery patients that smoke.

If circulation is limited, blood clots will likely form, something that can lead to both thrombosis and embolisms, or even a combination of the two. Complications like these can impede the ability to heal wounds. If a wound or surgical incision bursts or reopens along the seam, dehiscence can occur, resulting in life-threatening leakage.

As for pulmonary complications, these can take the form of sleep apnea or even dangerous pneumonia, evidence of a weakened respiratory system. The latter implies you might fail to wean off mechanical ventilation upon finalizing the surgery, which could require reintubation.

Given that smoking creates higher complication rates during and after surgery, the potential for prolonged hospitalization may also increase, along with the need for higher dosages of opioid medications for postoperative pain management.

Obesity can often indicate both a lack of physical activity and poor circulation. Smoking further complicates each of these things. Surgeons suggest that patients who quit smoking at least one year before weight-loss surgery experience far fewer complications and have better outcomes. Even quitting so far in advance,  there is no guarantee that you will avoid developing complications. 

If you’re a smoker considering weight-loss surgery, your surgeon will insist that you quit smoking at least three months prior to undergoing the procedure. They will also urge you to remain cigarette-free permanently. 

Full cessation before surgery increases abstinence rates in the short-term. And to safeguard your stomach pouch and overall health, the best thing you can do is never smoke. So, why not get an early start and quit now?

Reasons Why Smoking Before Bariatric Surgery Isn’t an Option

While most complications derived from smoking manifest after bariatric surgery, it is crucial to quit before undergoing the procedure because the nicotine will still be in your system. As we’ve discussed so far, there are many risks for bariatric surgery tied to smoking.

When it comes to weight-loss surgeries, smoking directly affects the organ undergoing the modification—the stomach

If the stomach becomes obstructed, and you will likely see the formation of ulcers. Smoking interrupts the body’s ability to heal ulcers. It also risks perforation and narrowing of the stomach pouch created by the bariatric procedure. All of this results in severe pain, vomiting, and nausea.

Nicotine causes high blood pressure, which can lead to internal bleeding, blood clots, and infections. If an infection gets out of control, it could result in sepsis. 

Smoking also reduces your blood cells’ capacity for carrying oxygen throughout the body, which in turn slows healing. Remember, your stomach will have a much harder time healing its incisions and adjusting to the surgical alterations if it does not have the support of healthy blood cells and good circulation.

Furthermore, smokers tend to have a reduced folate intake. Folate, also known as folic acid, is the essential nutrient in vitamin B complex necessary for the maturation of structural proteins and hemoglobin.

Can you smoke after weight-loss surgery?

If you’ve read this article thus far, you know the answer to this question is no. You can make your own choices, but if you wish to secure a smooth, speedy recovery, and a healthy future, it’s best not to smoke again, even once you’ve fully recovered from the surgery and reached your goal weight.

Every complication we’ve talked about here is a permanent risk, not just during surgery and recovery. These go hand-in-hand with smoking, independent of where you are in your weight-loss journey. When it comes to weight-loss surgeries, smoking doubles your risk for complications.

As we’ve described, smoking obstructs or impedes various organ functions. Your body will have a hard enough time recovering from surgery. While cardiovascular, digestive, and pulmonary functions are the central concerns around smoking and bariatric surgery, problematic outcomes can significantly affect even more areas.

The point is: maintaining long-term abstinence from smoking is vital when it comes to bariatric surgery. We have lots of resources to help you on your journey to better health. Browse through our other articles, and don’t hesitate to join the club for guidance!

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