Potential candidates for plastic surgery often ask when is the “right” time to have certain procedures. Particular plastic surgery procedures should be put on hold until you’re at a certain point in your lifestyle: for example, it’s best to wait on having a tummy tuck done until after you’re finished having children. What surprises many patients is that they can’t undergo any plastic surgery procedures if they are a smoker.
The health risks of smoking are well-documented, from heart disease to strokes to cancer of the lungs, mouth and throat. Even so, according to the American Cancer Society, almost 20% of adults in the United States still smoke. That’s just over 42 million people who are still spending money on a product that puts their health and well-being at risk.
The problem with smoking and plastic surgery is that with nicotine there is less blood flow to the skin. Less blood flow results in less oxygen and nutrients reaching the incision. Many plastic surgery procedures involve significant incisions, from hip-to-hip incisions for tummy tucks to incisions in the breast and shoulder area for breast augmentation and lifting. These need all the blood flow and oxygen possible in order to heal smoothly and cleanly. When healing is subsequently impaired, it can cause devastating complications.
Unlike other medically necessary surgical procedures, cosmetic surgery is “elective surgery,” meaning that patients voluntarily choose to undergo the procedure to address physical imperfections. Because of this, we have zero tolerance for any risk of complications from the procedure. Like all responsible plastic surgeons, Dr. Bradley Hubbard requires his patients to quit smoking for at least the month before and the month after the surgery. Unfortunately, because the nicotine itself is the culprit in reducing blood flow and slowing down the healing process, that means nicotine-based quitting aids like nicotine gum and nicotine patches are also prohibited.
Although we understand that it’s hard, we simply won’t perform plastic surgery on patients who are current smokers. But it helps to look at this as an opportunity: if you’ve been trying to kick the habit, here’s a really great incentive to do so. And then you can reward yourself with the tummy tuck or breast lift or rhinoplasty you’ve been wanting, so you’ll look better, feel better, and have a whole new lease on life.