Smoking and postoperative pain

Does quitting smoking pre-operatively have a clinically significant impact on pain following surgery?

This study aimed to examine the effects of long-term smoking and nicotine dependence on pain following surgery.

107 male participants who were undergoing elective thoracoscopic lung cancer surgery were divided into 3 groups:

  • those who had a high nicotine dependency and discontinued smoking less than 3 weeks before surgery;
  • those who had a high nicotine dependency but quit smoking more than 3 weeks post surgery; and
  • non-smokers.

Of the groups, the group that had no nicotine dependency had lower pain scores up to 48 hours post-operatively, and the group with nicotine dependency that had quit smoking less than 3 weeks before surgery scored the highest with VAS and PCA use.

This article is one of the first to examine the neurological correlation between nicotine dependency and the neurological pathways of the brain and reporting of pain.

It also highlights the importance of considering the full history of a patient – and not just the classification of a smoker or a non-smoker. The level of nicotine dependency is an important consideration, and from a rehabilitation viewpoint this is worth noting in advance, as this could impact the therapist’s approach.

> From: Zhao et al., Medicine (Baltimore) 98 (2019) e14209 . All rights reserved to The Author(s). Click here for the online summary.

Expert opinion by Willem-Paul Wiertz

This article highlights smoking and nicotine dependency as a factor influencing pain following surgery.

While nicotine is known to impact healing and recovery, it is important to highlight the strong neurological impact smoking can have. It would be interesting to highlight smoking and nicotine dependency in other persistent-pain conditions.

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