Doctors Starting To Refuse To Operate On Smokers? Here’s The Reason Why

Doctors Starting To Refuse To Operate On Smokers? Here’s The Reason Why

By now it is common knowledge that smoking is bad for the human body, you don’t need anymore science to prove this, but it seems that smoking may now keep you from being operated on. It looks as if doctors are becoming hesitant to do surgeries on people who smoke due to the success of the surgeries being higher in those who don’t smoke versus those who do.

A recent case comes out of The Charlotte Observer that published an article about a doctor turning down a patient for a back surgery due to the fact that he was a smoker. Some may see this as odd, and basically illegal in some ways. However, the article went on to explain why the doctor did so. The doctor did not want to proceed with it because the recovery and success of the surgery was going to be lower for this particular spinal fusion surgery.

This is not an isolated event by any means. An orthopedic surgeon explained that the results of surgeries aren’t as good for people who smoke, because smoking affects your blood flow. This makes sense to many, as blood being messed with will affect the body and its ability to heal. For example, imagine having a hose at home with little kinks in it throughout, the water getting through would be odd and it may get through…but it would take longer. From there, you see that the kinks affected the entire system of water going through when, if those were gone, water would flow just fine.

CDC Smoking
[Image by Branden Camp/AP Images]

The Observer quotes the findings of a Global Spine Journal that found smokers don’t do as well when it comes to recovering from certain spine injuries. However, smoking does not only affect the spine or back when it comes to surgeries. Smokers may also have issues when it comes to foot and ankle surgeries, according to The American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society. As skin won’t heal as well afterward.

The Observer mentioned that one study found that smokers who got joint replacement surgery had an 80 percent higher chance than nonsmokers of needing a repeat surgery, because of complications from infection. For this very reason, surgeons who do those procedures have begun asking patients to quit smoking, at least stop for six months before and after the surgery.

Even the American Society of Anesthesiologists got in on the conversation regarding smokers, claiming they witnessed massive benefits when patients don’t smoke before a surgery. People are often told if they are going to be put to sleep before a surgery, that they should not eat or drink for eight hours at least. This allows for the person to have an empty stomach and avoid any sort of issue where a person could choke on possible throw up that could occur.

Smoking on Campus
[Image by Pat Wellenbach/AP Images]

Due to the meds putting people to sleep affecting one’s stomach if full, it is said that patients have to be careful with avoiding foods and anything major such as certain liquids as well. Otherwise you could have a major issue. This is usually due to the fact that a person cannot swallow with their body being out for a certain period of time.

However, this is not the only thing that is asked from anesthesiologists. It is often suggested to smokers to not smoke until after their procedure or surgery, which is why the ASA mentioned they get better benefits from people who do not smoke before surgery versus those who do. It all makes sense in theory, as smoking has been known to affect things like this.

Doctors simply want to avoid complications that smokers clearly provide. It costs the patients more money long-term, and they do not get a good recovery. This also makes the surgeons performing the surgery look bad, as they have to do numerous surgeries on people and they may be blamed for the complication when the smoker themselves were the ones who caused it themselves.

The Charlotte Observer spoke with Dr. Leo Spector, who is a specialist in spine surgery at OrthoCarolina in the state. He claimed the following.

“A year from now, I’ll probably be at a point where I would require all my patients to stop smoking. Currently, I evaluate it on a case-by-case basis. Over time, we’re going to feel comfortable being a little more stringent with our patients about these modifiable risks.”

It was even suggested that insurance companies may very well start denying surgeries for smokers due to the cost for them long-term. If numerous surgeries happen for a person involving the same thing and the patient, a smoker, is causing the problem…why should an insurance company keep taking the hit? The Observer spoke with Dr. Bryan Edwards, the head of orthopedic surgery for Novant Health about this ordeal involving smokers and being denied surgery.

China's No Tobacco Day
[Image by Andy Wong/AP Images]

“We want the best results possible. We’re not denying you a surgery. We’re preventing you from having a complication.If you’re doing surgery, you’re trying to get the bones to unite, and if you don’t have good blood flow, the results aren’t as good. I tell patients, ‘Complications from surgery are far worse than whatever condition you have now. If you’ve got an infected back that doesn’t fuse, you don’t want that.’ “

Dr. Edwards said he finds that many patients don’t take it well at first when he tells them that need to quit smoking or lose weight, but did claim that many end up thanking him later. As a doctor, these men and women want to take care of the patients and make sure they not only live a long life but are healthy and able to actually live without any major issues.

“Everybody needs something in their life to motivate them. Usually, if the patient makes the commitment to stop and gets through the procedure, I find the majority of them just stop smoking.”

Most smokers know that smoking is bad for them, and some are trying to quit and avoid the problem altogether. Others do not want to even try to do so, and may never want to stop. It all depends on who you talk with. However, if people are needing life altering surgeries and they are turned down because they happen to be a smoker….it might be a wake-up call that makes them stop in the end.

[Featured Image By Gene J. Puskar/AP Images]