The Scoop On Smoking from ACSH: what every teen should know about tobacco
When people have surgery, the doctors use medicines called anesthetics to make sure that the patient doesn't feel any pain. One type of anesthesia that is commonly used during surgery is general anesthesia, which puts the patient to sleep during the operation.
Sometimes, when people have surgery with general anesthesia, they have problems afterward. For example, they are especially susceptible to respiratory problems, such as infections, at this time. People who have respiratory problems after an operation may have to spend extra time in the hospital. Smokers are much more likely than nonsmokers to develop respiratory problems after surgery because their lungs are already in bad shape from smoking.
One reason why smokers have more complications from anesthesia is that they need larger doses of anesthetic medicines than nonsmokers do. One of the purposes of anesthesia -- besides stopping pain -- is to make sure that the patient doesn't cough during the operation. It takes more medicine to accomplish this in a smoker because smokers cough a lot, since their respiratory systems are always irritated.
After having surgery, patients must stay in a recovery room or intensive care unit until they are well enough to be moved to a regular hospital room. It takes longer for smokers to recover enough to leave the recovery room than it does for nonsmokers, at least partly because they have more problems from anesthesia.
Smoking before undergoing surgery with anesthesia is particularly risky for people who have asthma -- a condition that is common among people your age, as well as adults. Smoking aggravates asthma, and the combination of the two factors increases the risks of anesthesia.
The American Council on Science and Health is a consumer eduction consortium with a board of 350 physicians, scientists, and policy advisors.