How Smoking Can Impact Heart Surgery

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Besides the obvious side effects, smoking can also hamper heart surgery.The world’s leading cause of preventable death also hampers heart surgery—the kind of surgery that is not very negotiable. A new study says that quitting smoking a year before having a procedure done on an artery doesn’t fully help put your veins back the way they used to be. The most important message here: quit smoking as soon as possible, especially if you might need heart surgery in the near future.

The procedure here is called “coronary artery bypass grafting” (CABG) surgery. Surgeons use the leg veins for this procedure, but smoking can cause such problems that it can later lead to vein graft failure—even if you quit smoking for a year beforehand.

Chinese researchers analyzed heart surgery outcomes in 208 patients undergoing elective CABG surgery. After dividing the patients into six groups based on the quantity they had smoked and previous smoking status, the researchers found that heavy smoking increased the number of specific enzymes in the leg vein. These enzymes have been linked to vein graft failure—meaning the surgery didn’t take.

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We don’t want this to be used as an “oh, well, what can you do” story for smokers unprepared to quit. Instead, we want to point out yet another reason why smoking is so dangerous. Here, quitting smoking leads to a normal level of those particular enzymes, but timing is key. A vein needs at least six months to recover, and researchers found vein enzymes do not completely return to normal levels even after one year.

The discovery may even prompt surgeons to use different grafts for heavy smokers who are going through this surgery. Some experts believe that understanding how those enzymes affect leg vein grafts could open up potential therapies for heart surgery patients who are, or have been, smokers.

But the message they send is this: there is unknown value in not smoking. Quitting smoking is critical for heart health not only to prevent heart disease, but also to make sure bypass surgery is effective. This is important news for the 1.1 billion people in the world who continue to smoke.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
How Smoking Can Impact Heart Surgery
Sun, Y., et al., “Heavy Smoking Before Coronary Surgical Procedures Affects the Native Matrix Metalloproteinase-2 and Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 Gene Expression in Saphenous Vein Conduits,” The Annals of Thoracic Surgery 2013; 95(1): 55.