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Stopping smoking reduces postoperative complications

Patients who stop smoking four weeks before an operation reduce the risk of complications, according to a doctoral thesis from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet.

Moreover, many of those who receive help with this ahead of operations remain non-smokers for a long time afterwards.

Smokers who undergo surgery suffer complications, such as wound infections and poorly healing wounds, more often than non-smokers. Research has shown that the risk of complications is reduced if the patient stops smoking ahead of the operation, but it is unclear how long beforehand it has to happen.

Dr David Lindström works as a surgeon at the Stockholm South General Hospital (Södersjukhuset). He now shows in his doctoral thesis that quitting tobacco use as late as four weeks prior to an operation is effective. His study involved 117 patients, half of whom were offered a chance to take part in a stop smoking programme four weeks before surgery. The patients in the control group went on to have roughly twice the number of complications as the programme patients.

"The complications are unpleasant for the patients and expensive for the health services," says Dr Lindström. "Since help with quitting tobacco use is both effective and cheap compared with other preventative measures, it should always be offered as an option before an operation."

Dr Lindström's thesis shows that relatively many of the patients who took part in the stop smoking programme managed to actually quit their habit, both in the short and long terms. Approximately 58 per cent of the patients who received help stopped smoking before their operations, and 33 per cent were still non-smokers one year later.

"This is a very good result when you compare with other quit smoking programmes," says Dr Lindström. "It seems as if surgery is a motivation-boosting factor for people who are already trying to kick the habit."

Thesis: The impact of tobacco use on postoperative complications, David Lindström, Karolinska Institutet, Department of Clinical Research and Education at Södersjukhuset (KI SÖS).

Further information, please contact:

Dr David Lindström
Mobile: +46 (0)73 620 06 36
Press Officer Katarina Sternudd
Tel: +46 (0)8-524 838 95
Karolinska Institutet is one of the leading medical universities in Europe. Through research, education and information, Karolinska Institutet contributes to improving human health. Each year, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. For more information, visit

Katarina Sternudd | alfa
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