Smokers facing surgery may be forced to give up

cigaretteThe director-general of the Swedish Welfare Board has argued that in the periods before and after operations surgeons should be able to place demands on smokers to refrain from lighting up.

Lars-Erik Holm argues that a non-smoking requirement should be as important and natural as nil by mouth or weight loss requirements. Holm made the recommendation on the proviso that patients were to be provided with anti-smoking help for the periods in question, reports The Local.

Northern Sweden’s Norrland University Hospital in Umea was cited by Holm as a role model. There, at the orthopaedic clinic, a smoking ban was introduced six months ago and applies to all surgery. Hospital guidelines stipulate that patients are requested to stop smoking for two months before and after any surgical procedure.

“It should perhaps be regarded in the same way as demanding that a diabetic keep a check on blood sugar levels, or an overweight person is required to lose a few kilos, or control their blood pressure before an op,” said Holm.

Several studies have found that associated risks for smokers can be greatly reduced after surgery with the enforcement of a no-smoking policy. Holm reasons that such measures would have widespread benefits across all areas of operation including reducing complications by up to 50 percent as well as increasing the likelihood of successful surgery. “Healthcare services have been vague regarding this issue previously. We now know so much more – that even simple procedures are associated with a far higher risk for complications if the patient smokes.”

Holm also refuted suggestions of any Big Brother attitudes towards healthcare. “If the patient, despite everything, refuses, then it is important that she or he understands that they deliberately expose themselves to a greater risk,” he concluded.

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