Anaesthesia and smoking

Smokers are at increased risk of respiratory, cardiac and wound-related complications following surgery. 

Stopping smoking before your anaesthetic "every day makes a difference".

Tobacco use is the single greatest preventable cause of death and disease in Australia and New Zealand. At least half of all smokers will eventually die as a result of their smoking according to conservative estimates. Annually, about 15,500 deaths in Australia and 5000 in New Zealand are attributable to tobacco. 

It's never too late for patients to stop smoking:

  • Quitting smoking for one day will lower carboxyhaemoglobin and nicotine levels and could be expected to improve tissue oxygen delivery.
  • Quitting smoking for as little as three weeks has been shown to improve wound healing.
  • Quitting smoking for six to eight weeks results in sputum volumes that are not increased compared to non-smokers, and improved pulmonary function. 
  • Immune function is significantly recovered by six months after quitting smoking.

Seize the opportunity – the anaesthetist and advocacy. 

The perioperative period represents a 'teachable moment' when many smokers quit or attempt to quit smoking, sometimes permanently.

The Smoking Cessation Taskforce of the American Society of Anesthesiologists developed a simple three-point cessation strategy (A-A-R = Ask, Advise, Refer). This involves always asking patients about their smoking status (even when known), advising them of the perioperative risks and referring them to locally available smoking cessation support.

In keeping with this theme, The Alfred hospital in Melbourne has created a "Start the conversation" campaign. 

This was the message for our 2014 National Anaesthesia Day campaign.

Last updated 12:07 17.08.2022