Smokers have 80 percent higher chance of infection post-surgery: Study

smokersWe’ve heard it a thousand times: smoking is bad for you. But people who’ve taken up the habit continue to smoke, and it can be one of the hardest things to quit. Perhaps another reason to quit smoking—which may prompt you to finally quit—is that it may be raising the risk of infections, especially after recent surgery.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking tobacco causes more than 480,000 deaths a year in the United States—nearly one in five deaths is attributed to smoking. Smoking is attributed to more deaths than HIV, illegal drugs, alcohol use, motor vehicle accidents, and firearm-related incidents combined. Tobacco is also associated with the following health risks:

  • Increased risk of coronary heart disease by two-to-four times
  • Increased risk of stroke by two-to-four times
  • Increased the risk of men developing lung cancer by 25 times
  • Increased the risk of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times
  • Smoking leads to lung diseases such as COPD, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis
  • Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body, including the bladder, blood, cervix, colon, rectum, esophagus, and kidneys


According to a new study, chances of repeated surgery for infection was 80 percent higher than for non-smokers, with the study in question following hip or knee replacement patients. The study analyzed data from more than 15,000 patients who underwent either a total hip or knee replacement between 2000 and 2014.

What the investigators found was that the overall risk of repeat surgery for infections within 90 days was only 0.71 percent, but that risk was increased to 1.2 percent in those who were smokers compared to only 0.56 percent in those who weren’t. After adjusting for other possible factors and summarizing the data results, the researchers were left to conclude that current smokers’ risk was 80 percent higher than non-smokers or former smokers.
Additionally, the researchers found that for both current and former smokers, the risk of a 90-day hospital readmission not involving surgery rose with the number of “pack years” smoked. This term is used to identify the number of packs smoked per day over a number of years, and in the case of this study, it showed that those who were smoking an extra pack a day for a decade were associated with a 12 percent increased risk. The researchers stress that the study did indicate a cause-and-effect relationship between smoking and a greater risk of surgery complication, but that there is correlational data connecting the two.

“The findings suggest it may be a good idea to enroll patients in smoking-cessation programs before they have total joint replacement,” Dr. Matthew Austin wrote.

Related: Nostalgia may help smokers quit

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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