4 steps to help patients quit smoking before surgery

A new study suggests that a four-step program can increase the proportion of patients who are able to kick their smoking habit prior to surgery, according to a MedicalXPress research announcement.

The study, conducted by Susan M. Lee, M.D of University of Western Ontario and published in the September issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, tracked 168 smokers with pending elective surgeries. The experimental group received an "intervention" at least three weeks prior to their procedures, which consisted of the following steps:

1. Brief counseling provided by a nurse.

2. Brochures relating to quitting smoking, provided by the Canadian Cancer Society.

3. Referral to a telephone hotline for smokers who wish to quit. Upon referral, the hotline made four attempts to initiate contact with the patients, according to the study; subsequent contact was at the discretion of the patient.

4. A free six-week supply of nicotine patches.

While most patients in both the experimental and control groups were still smokers at the time of their procedures, the rate of quitting in the experimental group was approximately 14 percent, compared to only 4 percent for the control group, the study noted.

Researchers also found no significant variation in the risk of surgical complications between the experimental and control groups, which they hope will "dispel [the] erroneous belief" that cessation of smoking prior to surgery leads to increased risk of pulmonary problems, according to the research announcement.

"In summary, an easily implemented and inexpensive intervention to promote smoking cessation to surgical patients at least 3 weeks preoperatively resulted in improved smoking cessation and reduction rates on the day of surgery that were sustained at 30 days postoperatively," the study says. "This intervention, and its straightforward implementation, dispel frequently raised objections to more active participation of anesthesiologists in preoperative smoking cessation programs."

For more:
- here's the study
- here's the research announcement