[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 3-Sep-2009
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Contact: Hilda Bastian
information@iqwig.de
49-022-135-6850
Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care

It pays to quit smoking before surgery

Nicotine replacement therapy can help prevent common complications

This release is available in German.

People who start nicotine replacement therapy at least four weeks before surgery can halve their risk of poor wound healing. This is what the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) concludes in information published on informedhealthonline.org today.

Quitting smoking in times of stress is not easy

"It is not easy to quit smoking just before an operation," appreciates Professor Peter Sawicki, the Institute's Director. "But people who smoke are more likely to have complications after surgery than people who do not smoke," he adds.

IQWiG has now analysed current research results that show that nicotine replacement therapy can help people quit smoking and avoid complications after surgery. Nicotine replacement therapy helps reduce withdrawal symptoms when people stop smoking by giving them nicotine through a patch or chewing gum. Trials showed that only 14 percent of the patients who smoked had problems with wound healing if they had nicotine replacement therapy at least four weeks before surgery, compared to 28 percent of the patients who did not have nicotine replacement therapy. Poor wound healing is one of the most common complications after surgery.

Lack of oxygen can cause poor wound healing

"Anaesthetics and surgery put a strain on the body's oxygen supply as it is," explains Professor Sawicki. "Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that is available in the blood even more, making it more difficult for wounds to heal a process which requires oxygen."

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The Institute's website, www.informedhealthonline.org, provides the public with easy-to-understand information about current medical developments and research on important health issues. If you would like to be kept up-to-date with the latest publications on the independent health information website, you can subscribe to the informedhealthonline.org newsletter.



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