Why should you quit smoking before joint replacement surgery? Because smoking changes blood-flow patterns, delays healing and slows recovery, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 1

This is true for any major surgery. The Anemia Institute for Research & Education reports smoking can reduce your red blood cell count. Of course, smoking can also increase lung complications, which is always a concern for patients planning to undergo general anesthesia.

In a recent article for the Medical Journal of Australia, Matthew Peters, MD, wrote that "Wound infection rates are higher in smokers than in non-smokers who have had joint-replacement surgery."2 Earlier studies have also shown smoking is linked to longer joint replacement surgeries, lengthened hospital stays, and a higher demand for hospital services.3

According to Dr. Peters, "Continuing smokers must accept that some risks are simply unacceptable given the intent of surgery." And the key is quitting - simply cutting back on smoking is not adequate. To achieve a benefit, patients need to stop several weeks before surgery.

The specific reason for higher infection rates in smokers is not clear. However, there is a glimmer of good news. Dr. Peters indicates nicotine replacement devices such as nicotine gum and patches are not linked to increased infection rates.

Just think of how your life may change when you've quit smoking and have had your diseased joint replaced with an implant designed to reduce pain and immobility. You'll have a better chance for a faster recovery, and you could be on your way to a new, much healthier life.

For more information about smoking cessation classes, go to or call the Eisenhower Health Living Resource Center at 760-568-1234.

  • ¹Fact Sheet: Preparing for Joint Replacement Surgery, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • 2 Medical Journal of Australia 2004; 180 (7): 317-318
  • 3 Clinical Orthopedics. 1999 Oct; 367: 172-180
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