Smoking is at once one of the most prevalent and hard-to-break habits known to human kind. It’s also the most popular habit for physicians to harp on whenever they get a chance. While every physician will tell any patient, at any time, that it’s a good idea to quit smoking, the warning goes triple for those who want to have an abdominoplasty, commonly known as the tummy tuck. The tummy tuck procedure is often advertised as a quick and easy solution to obesity.
“While the results of a successful tummy tuck procedure truly are remarkable, the procedure itself is quite involved and, consequently, the recuperation process after said operation is quite delicate,” said Dr.Sompob Sansiri, the lead plastic surgeon at SP Cosmetic Surgery.
Smoking hinders the recuperation process so severely that many physicians require that a patient fully quits smoking one to three months before the procedure begins and is totally smoke-free– including his or her exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke– for at least one to three months after the procedure has been completed. The procedure itself involves a severely invasive process during which the surgeon makes an incision across the lower abdomen, removes fat from the region, then stretches the lower limit and re-attaches it. In order for the skin to properly heal from such an involved and invasive procedure, the skin has to be both elastic and oxygenated enough to do so. Tobacco smoke constricts blood flow to all parts of the body. Both the skin’s elasticity and oxygen levels are diminished, thereby severely slowing the healing process.
“Smoker’s immune systems have long been known to be slower to rebound than non-smokers’. This applies in general as well as to the nature of a patient’s recovery in regards to this specific procedure,” added Dr.Sompob Sansiri.
There should also be no confusion as to whether said cessation will completely restore the former smoker’s immune system so that recuperation from procedures will be as risk-free as a non-smoker’s, but it is known that consequences to those who refuse to quit within the recommended time frame can be fairly severe.
The major risk for smokers after this procedure is an unsightly condition called skin necrosis. This skin condition will begin to develop within a few weeks after surgery, usually appearing just above the top line of the pubic hair. At first, a slight discoloration appears; then it darkens further. Eventually, this area of the skin– usually at or near the exact point of incision– will drain or blister, then separate and sometimes appear to dissolve, leaving whatever remaining fat exposed. The occurrence of this condition post-op isn’t nearly as rare as one might believe. Lots of patients, aware that their physicians will almost always stand in their offices, wagging their fingers at them and tell them to quit their nasty habits. On the other hand, the occurrence of this condition for smokers is so frequent that some physicians will often show pictures of case studies to prospective patients to drive the point home.
That tactic is, admittedly, a harsh one. On the other hand, the entire point of a tummy tuck procedure is not only to lose weight, but also to improve a person’s health and physical appearance. Not only are the consequences of continued tobacco use after abdominal procedures unsightly, but unhealthy as well. The decision to better one’s life by having a cosmetic procedure is a major life choice in and of itself, and sometimes the sacrifices that entails can seem, at first glance, to be more than one can bear; but the failure to make some of those choices can exacerbate problems that could otherwise be avoided by making them.
With the knowledge of these complications in mind and a full acknowledgment that both the decision to have a tummy tuck operation and to quit smoking are hard ones, it’s best for people who are considering any form of cosmetic surgery to consider their options very carefully.
“If you’re serious about losing weight and have exhausted all other options, if you’re committed to making a change in your life for the better and think that a procedure like the tummy tuck is the best way for you to go, it’s also best for you to find the most effective means possible to quit smoking as well,” said Dr.Sompob Sansiri.
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