17 September 2008

Cosmetic surgery is fast becoming a motivation for smokers to quit their habit.

Each year, an estimated 40 to 45 per cent of the 45 million smokers across the US attempt to quit - but only five per cent are said to succeed. However, with smoke-free living being a requirement for many popular plastic surgery procedures - from tummy tucks and breast augmentation to eyelid surgery and neck lifts - many smokers are faced with the option to either relinquish the habit, or forego the procedure.

"When someone hears this from an internist or cardiologist who says [smoking is] really bad for you, [that] it increases your risk of lung cancer, it's bad for your heart, people tend to blow that off if they're feeling well," said Dr. Alan Gold, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

"With plastic surgery it's a little bit different. People are desirous of an elective procedure, and that's their main objective in coming in. It's something they truly want."

Plastic surgeons have been adamant about their smoke-free patient policy for the last five to ten years - particularly in patients seeking face-lifts, tummy tucks or breast-lifts, which all require skin to be shifted.

"Nicotine causes the tiny blood vessels in the skin to clamp down or constrict, which reduces blood supply to the skin," said Dr. Darshan Shah, a plastic surgeon in Bakersfield, California. Complications can include poor wound healing, increased risk of infection, longer- lasting bruises and raised, red scars and respiratory complications during anesthesia.

Surgeons recommend not smoking for a few weeks before and after procedures, though some require longer. For instance, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenthal, chief of plastic surgery at Bridgeport Hospital in Connecticut, requires his patients to refrain from smoking for six weeks if they're having eyelid surgery or breast augmentation, and six months to a year before a tummy tuck.