CigaretteA study, just published in the June 2010 Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS), has found that patients that stop smoking for six weeks after having emergency surgery for bone fractures, heal faster and suffer fewer complications than those who continue smoking.

Previous studies had found that quitting smoking before surgery results in faster healing and fewer complications. This was the first study to look at the effects of stopping smoking after surgery.

The study was done at three hospitals in Stockholm. Patients who had surgery to treat acute fractures were offered a stop-smoking program within two days of the surgery, then followed for six weeks.

Hans Nasell, MD, senior surgical consultant at Karolinska Institutet, Sodersjukhuset in Stockholm, Sweden, said of the study:

“Our results indicate that a smoking cessation intervention program during the first six weeks after acute fracture surgery decreases the risk of postoperative complications by nearly half. Up until this point, the belief was that you needed to stop smoking prior to surgery to gain any benefit. It was surprising, and encouraging, to see that even stopping smoking following surgery for a period of time can offer significant benefits, including nearly a 50 percent reduction in wound complications.”

It was noted that the stop-smoking program only required three to four hours of support from nursing staff during the six week period, significantly less time than it takes to handle the complications that were prevented.