How Nicotine Sabotages Plastic Surgery

Have you finally made the exciting decision to get a tummy tuck, liposuction, or breast enhancement? If so, your doctor likely warned you to stay away from cigarettes for the weeks leading up to your plastic surgery. But what does nicotine have to do with a cosmetic surgical procedure? We receive this question a lot at our office, and we want to offer a detailed explanation here.

The “Plastic” in Plastic Surgery

Are you ready for a quick Greek lesson? The word “plastic” comes from the Greek word “plastikos” which means “to change shape” or “to mold”. Your body isn’t made of plastic, of course, but it is highly moldable. The process of molding and shaping bodily skin and tissues in order to achieve an ascetic result is known as plastic surgery.

One key ingredient of a successful plastic surgery is adequate blood flow. As doctors stretch the skin and remold tissues, they necessarily must divide blood vessels from the surgical area. If all of the blood is cut off from the area, however, the tissues will not get enough oxygen. This can result in a condition known as “Ischemia” in which some of the tissue dies. To prevent this, surgeons work to create a delicate balance of blood flow as they shape and mold. Too much blood gushing to the surgical area is obviously not a good thing. But too little blood can be very dangerous for the patient.

Nicotine – the Nemesis of Plastic Surgery

Blood supply is of great concern during any surgical procedure, of course, but it is particularly important during cosmetic surgeries such as breast augmentations and tummy tucks. The nipples and belly button are in high need of blood flow for proper healing and optimum results.

When patients smoke cigarettes or consume nicotine in nicotine gum, their blood vessels shrink in size. This is because nicotine serves as a vasoconstrictor, clamping down on blood vessels and causing their diameters to decrease – ultimately minimizing blood flow to areas that need healing. Nicotine is also known to make the blood clot more easily and is correlated with devastating surgical complications such as heart attacks and strokes. Here are some of the unfortunate effects that can stem from nicotine use before a cosmetic surgery procedure:

  • Increased pain

  • Thick scarring

  • Delayed wound healing

  • Fat necrosis (the death of fat cells) leading to hard lumps

  • Permanent vessel damage

  • Loss of skin

  • Infections

Avoid Nicotine for a Safe and Effective Surgery

Given the many complications that nicotine can cause during a surgical cosmetic procedure, it is strongly recommended that patients avoid nicotine for six weeks leading up to their surgery. The surgeons at the Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Center of El Paso are committed to producing beautiful results, and we are even more committed to the safety of our patients. Contact us today if you have more questions about the effects of nicotine on your upcoming surgery.

CareCredit® and Prosper are both options for financing your healthcare services. El Paso Plastic Surgery accepts both! Please visit the company websites to learn more.

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