Smoking Behaviors and Spine Surgery Healing

Dr Paul McDonough MD pic
Dr Paul McDonough MD
Image: fixmyspine.net

Paul W. McDonough, MD, serves as a spine surgeon with Orthopedic Associates of Abilene in Texas.
There, Dr. Paul McDonough guides patients through the process of undergoing and recovering from neck and back surgery.

Over the years, research into recovery from spine surgery has shown improved patient healing times and experiences. One of the most recent investigations into this topic has revealed that the impact of smoking on recovery correlates directly with lifelong intensity of the habit.

A recent study, presented at the North American Spine Society’s 31st annual meeting, followed 212 patients who underwent treatment for cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Researchers assessed each patient both preoperatively and postoperatively using the Nurick scale, which evaluates patients’ challenges in walking.

Although the study found no difference in preoperative scores, nonsmokers returned postoperative improvement of 1.53 Nurick scale points, while smokers demonstrated improvement of only 0.6 points. Furthermore, and perhaps more significantly, scores lowered commensurately with a patient’s packs per day and number of pack-per-day smoking years.

Because smoking habits affected postoperative rather than preoperative scores, researchers hypothesize that tobacco use has a negative effect on the body’s healing processes. For surgeons, this finding reinforces the importance of smoking cessation counseling as part of preoperative preparations.

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