Most will remember the 90’s PSA commercial “This is your brain on drugs.” It was a highly effective campaign to get the message out about the harmful effects of drugs on the brain. Just like drugs can be harmful to your body, cigarette smoking can have the same destructive effects on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Smoking can cause serious issues on the lower extremity including complications with blood flow and wound and bone healing.
The harmful chemicals in cigarettes can lead to vasoconstriction, decreasing blood flow due to thickening of the blood vessels. The lack of blood flow can result in tissue ischemia and ultimately lead to the need for an amputation. In addition, smoking greatly increases the likelihood of a potential deadly blood clot.
Due to poor tissue perfusion, smoking can greatly effect wound healing. Incision sites following surgeries, and wounds on the foot, need the appropriate oxygen to ensure healing will occur. Any delays in healing can lead to infections both in wounds and in surgery sites. Smoking causes a 10x increase in poor wound healing.
Lastly, smoking can have adverse effects on bone healing post surgically and in trauma. Smoking delays the fracture healing process, potentially leading to a longer recovery time and increased pain. Studies have shown that patients who smoke and undergo a fusion of joints in their foot can lead to a greater increase in non-unions resulting in the need for a 2nd revision surgery.
There is no doubt that smoking can have serious effects on the entire body, especially the foot. Studies show that smoking cessation of 4-6 weeks prior to surgery can greatly reduce the risk of post-op complications. Complications due to smoking are 100% avoidable and it’s just a matter of making a life changing decision to quit that can benefit you for the rest of your life. If you are a smoker and are considering foot surgery, then now is as good a time as any to quit. If you want more information on how to reduce your risks of post surgical complications please visit www.toetalfootandanklecare.com or call our office at (817) 656- 0303.
Written by Dr. Daniel Cairns
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