Smokers at Higher Risk of Infection After Hernia Operation


A US study has found that current and recent smokers are significantly more likely to have serious complications following hernia repair operations than those who don't smoke.

The study found that even low-risk surgeries such as hernia repair operations are associated with increased risk for smokers.

Advised to quit

The research, which was published in The American Journal of Surgery, aimed to better understand how smoking affects complication rates in low-risk surgical procedures.

For high-risk procedures, surgeons will often advise their patients to quit smoking at least three months before the procedure. This is to reduce the risk of complications during and after the operation. However, for lower-risk, more common procedures, surgeons do not routinely advise their patients to quit.

Common, routine operation

A hernia is a bulge or swelling that happens when an organ or internal tissue pokes through a hole or weakness in the abdominal muscle wall.

A hernia repair operation is a common, routine procedure. It usually takes about an hour and is done as a day case. It can be done using open surgery or keyhole surgery.

Current smokers

The researchers in this study analysed details from over 220,000 patients in the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Project database who had elective hernia repair procedures between 2011 and 2014.

Of the patients, 18.3% said they were current or recent (within the past 12 months) smokers.

The researchers looked at the rate of complications in the 30 days following their surgery. Complications included sepsis, re-admission to hospital and death.

Increased risk

Complications were found to occur in 6.34% of smokers, but in only 4.72% of non-smokers.

Smokers had increased likelihood of having to have another operation, having to be re-admitted to hospital, getting an infection or complication with their wound, and dying. There was no increased risk for smokers in terms of needing a transfusion, or having heart problems or blood clots.      

Reduces post-operative complications

The data used did not allow the researchers to find out whether those who quit smoking shortly before their operation were at a lower or higher risk of complications.

The authors of the study conclude that: “Given the volume of elective hernia surgery performed… encouraging smoking cessation prior to offering elective repair could reduce post-operative complications, re-operation, re-admission, and mortality.”


This article was written by a third party source and does not reflect the views or opinions of Ramsay Health Care unless explicitly stated.

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