Surgery could be the reason you’ve been looking for to quit smoking for good! Not only does smoking contribute to the degeneration of the disc in the first place, studies have also shown that smokers have a high rate of surgical complications arising as a direct result of smoking.
In particular, smokers experience:
1. A higher rate of non-union of the spine. Also known as pseudoarthroses, this is the condition where a procedure such as spinal fusion has not achieved a solid join. One of the reasons for this is that nicotine has been shown to decrease revascularisation of the bone graft. This means that insufficient nutrients get through to the bone graft due to a lack of blood supply. As a result the bone graft does not grow and fuse as it should.
2. Higher pain levels and other poor clinical outcomes. Among other things, smoking has been shown to reduce a patient’s level of pain tolerance, increase the risk of infection and reduce the performance of some important drugs.
3. Increased risk of related illnesses. Smokers suffer a greater incidence of complicating health issues such as cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders that hinder recovery.
If you can’t quit in the months leading up to surgery, even stopping smoking for at least 12 hours leading up to the surgery will greatly reduce the risk of complications.