[Preoperative abstinence from smoking. An outdated dogma in anaesthesia?]

B Zwissler, A Reither
Der Anaesthesist 2005, 54 (6): 550-9
For decades it has been assumed, that smoking within 6 hours of anesthesia and surgery raises the incidence of perioperative cardiopulmonary complications (PPC) including aspiration. Therefore, every patient is advised to stop smoking at the day before surgery, and not to smoke at all at the day of surgery. If the patient does not follow this advice, this will result in a postponement of anesthesia and surgery. The present article aims at re-investigating the scientific basis of this dogma in anesthesia, which virtually forbids smoking at short-term prior to surgery. The influence of short-term (6 h) abstinence from smoking on the perioperative pulmonary morbidity has not been systematically investigated. Interestingly, giving up smoking less than two months prior to surgery does not significantly decrease, but rather may increase the incidence of PPC. With respect to the risk of aspiration, smoking does not increase either the volume or the acidity of gastric juices. A short-lived reduction in the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter is reversible within minutes after termination of smoking. While the emptying of liquid gastric juices is not influenced by smoking, there is a certain delay in the propulgation of solid food. This effect, however, is probably of no clinical relevance in patients, who had their last solid meal the evening before surgery. Hence, we conclude that the anesthesia dogma, which rules out smoking shortly prior to anesthesia, cannot be based on an otherwise increased incidence of pulmonary aspiration or other pulmonary morbidity. However, acute smoking (probably by an increase in COHb) may increase the incidence of myocardial ischemia during exercise and anesthesia. With reference to this possible cardiac complication it still seems reasonable to discourage smoking at least 12 to 48 hours prior to surgery in patients with elevated cardiac risk.

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