Smoking Slows Ortho Healing: August 14, 2013

We all know smoking is hazardous to your health- being a key player in a large number of cancers along with heart disease. Now you can add something new to the list: there is evidence that smoking is bad for your bones.

“Smoking is a big factor as far as healing and infections. It’s a significant difference- where it may take 20 weeks to heal a long bone, which would be a femur or tibia, and may extend that healing time up six to eight weeks,” says Dr. Ed Humbert, orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

One theory is that smoking deprives the tissues of oxygen, which affects the blood supply- so that wounds and bones are less able to recuperate. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recently reviewed data between smokers and non-smokers and found higher complication rates in those who light up.

“No matter how bad the fracture is, if you’re not a smoker we can generally get it to heal very quickly and very well. Smokers can have the simplest of fractures and not heal,” says Dr. Humbert.

Even as being a smoker may add weeks to the healing process, kicking the habit even for a matter of weeks may offset some of the negative affects.

“If we know someone is a smoker, if they can quit even two weeks before the surgery and then not smoke for the next six weeks, that also dramatically improves your potential for healing incisions and heal the bone,” says Dr. Humbert.

Giving you one more reason to nix the nicotine fix.