Header Logo

Patients Should Avoid Nicotine Before Surgery

There are many things a patient needs to do to get ready for any plastic surgery procedure, such as getting enough sleep and eating well. 

One of the most important things, though, is avoiding smoking in the weeks leading up to the big day. 

Cigarettes are common among adults, especially in social and cultural settings, but they also increase a patient’s risk for complications before, during, and after surgery.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40 million American adults are smokers. This means that almost one in every five adults is a current smoker. Cigarettes and other tobacco-based products are so addicting because of nicotine, the primary chemical ingredient. Nicotine acts as a stimulant to give the user the feeling of an adrenaline high. It also interferes with the body’s blood flow by raising the blood pressure and heart rate while constricting the blood vessels. 

Maintaining a good blood flow is important both during and after surgery, which is why nicotine is so dangerous to surgical patients. Your blood is still moving during surgery, delivering oxygen, platelets, and other important nutrients throughout your body. After your surgery, your blood needs to be able to continue bringing these important materials to the operated area to aid in the healing process. Nicotine makes your blood vessels smaller, basically making it harder for your blood to move at a good pace and reducing the amount of blood that can reach the injured tissue. 

While you are recovering, blood will be trying to get to the operated area as much as possible so you can heal quickly. When your blood is unable to flow properly, there is a serious risk of blood clots to the smaller vessels and capillaries. There is also a more dangerous possibility of necrosis, in which the soft tissue will die because it can’t get enough nutrients through the blood.

Nicotine comes in many forms of course, and it is important to realize that nicotine gum, or e-cigarettes with nicotine are not viable alternatives while preparing for surgery. Chewing tobacco, Snus, are also a source of nicotine and need to be avoided. Second hand smoke counts too–do not share a car with a smoker before or after a surgery. Avoid cigar bars as well.

It takes about three weeks to clear your system of nicotine, and it takes about three weeks after surgery for your healing to have gotten a head start in recovery, so the goal is to disallow all sources of nicotine for three weeks before and after surgery to have a fighting chance at healing well and avoid complications.

Basile Plastic Surgery

If you are interested in learning more about any of our amazing plastic surgery procedures or our skin care MediSpa, contact our office. Our experienced professional staff is on hand to answer any of your questions or to schedule you a free initial consultation with Dr. Andrea Basile, our board-certified plastic surgeon with over twenty years of experience.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.