Doctors can safely recommend that patients quit smoking any time before surgery, according to a new study, Reuters reported March 17.
Past research had suggested that patients who quit smoking in the last few weeks before surgery suffered more post-surgical complications. As a result, some doctors recommend not quitting within eight weeks of a planned surgery.
The new study reviewed the results of nine different studies (and a total of nearly 900 patients) and found that in all of them, patients who quit smoking in the eight weeks before a planned surgery did not have more complications; and one study showed they had fewer complications. Patients who quit more than two months in advance of surgery also had fewer complications.
“It's certainly better if [patients] quit earlier,” said one of the study's authors, Dr. Peter Hajek, of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in Britain. But quitting any time, he said, was still a good idea.
“Quit early if you can,” he said, “but if you can't, quitting late is also alright.”
According to the study abstract, “further large studies would be useful to arrive at a more robust conclusion,” but there was no reason doctors should not tell their patients to quit smoking any time prior to surgery.
“We are pretty sure that until some new evidence of harm comes along…there is no sign of any danger,” said Hajek.
Dr. Philip Devereaux disagreed. “It's not conclusively shown that it is safe to stop smoking prior to surgery,” he said.
Devereaux is a heart doctor and epidemiologist at McMaster University in Ontario who co-authored a comment on the study. He and a colleague wrote that the new analysis did not “definitively answer the question raised,” and that the “optimal timing of smoking cessation for patients seen close to their scheduled surgery awaits further research.”
Hajek and one of his co-authors indicated in disclosure statements appended to the research that they they have consulted with and received research funding from several makers of smoking cessation drugs.
The study, “Stopping Smoking Shortly Before Surgery and Postoperative Complications,” was published online March 14, 2011, in the Archives of Internal Medicine.