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Quit smoking before surgery, WHO speaks on complications


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THE World Health Organisation (WHO) says tobacco smokers who quit approximately 4 weeks or more before surgery have a lower risk of complication and better results six months afterwards than current tobacco smokers.

WHO revealed in a press release that non-smokers of tobacco are at significantly lower risk for post-surgical complications including impaired heart and lung functions, infections and delayed or impaired wound healing.

“Patients who quit smoking tobacco are less likely to experience complications with anaesthesia when compared to regular smokers,” WHO said.

In the statement, conducted research showed that every tobacco-free week after 4 weeks improves health outcomes by 19 per cent, due to improved blood flow throughout the body to essential organs.

It noted that there are advantages to postponing minor surgery to give patients the opportunity to quit smoking which results in a better health outcome.

“The Nicotine and carbon monoxide, both present in cigarettes, can decrease oxygen levels and greatly increase the risk of heart-related complications after surgery.”

However, the statement highlighted the adverse effect of smoking, as one which damages the lungs making it difficult for the proper amount of air to flow through, thereby increasing the risk of post-surgical complications to the lungs.

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Also, smoking distorts a patient’s immune system and can delay healing, increasing the risk of infection at the wound site. WHO said, smoking just one cigarette decreases the body’s ability to deliver necessary nutrients for healing after surgery.

“Complications after surgery present a large burden for both the health care provider and the patient.  Primary care physicians, surgeons, nurses and families are important in supporting a patient to quit smoking at every stage of care, especially before an operation,” the statement said.

Relatively, a survey published on December 21, 2019, titled: “Current prevalence pattern of tobacco smoking in Nigeria: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” revealed the prevalence rate of current smokers in Nigeria.

Garnered statistics from 1990-2017, showed that current smokers were significantly high in the Northeast with (32 per cent, 30.0-34.1). Following, was the South-South region with a prevalence of (13.0 per cent, 8.7-17.3); North Central had (10.3 per cent, 6.0-14.4); South-West had (8.9 per cent, 6.9-11.0); South-East had (8.6per cent, 4.1-13.0) with the North-West at the lower ranks with (5.5 per cent, 3.7-7.2).

The report noted that while the prevalence of current smokers may be declining in Nigeria, the absolute number of active smokers remains one of the highest in Africa.

It pointed out key factors responsible for its increase in Africa, such as economic growth, improved socio-economic status, rapid migration, and increased cigarette affordability.

While WHO enjoined countries to include cessation programmes and educational campaigns in their health systems, other comprehensive measures such as strict anti-tobacco laws targeting tobacco production are encouraged to spread awareness and help people to quit smoking across country levels.

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