Are There More Risks for a Former Smoker?

I'm 29 and want to have a breast lift with implants within the next few months. I am a former smoker (smoked for 9years) I quit 6 years ago. During my research I read somewhere that a former smoker may be more prone to complications then someone who has never smoked. Is this true? If so how much more of a risk is there for me?

Doctor Answers 20

Former Smoker Having Breast Lift

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If you quit smoking 6 years ago, you should not be at significantly increased risk for complications over a non-smoker with a breast lift.  Good luck.

Breast lift risk for former smoker

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You have quit smoking, congratulations! While the risk may not go down to zero, at 7 years the risks are close to a non smoker. Using tobacco products brings a significant risk of cancer, stroke, heat attack, etc. From a Plastic Surgery standpoint it is a vasoconstrictor. Wound healing is all about getting oxygen and needed entities to the wound. It is well known that patients who smoke have a tremendous increase in their rate of serious complications, (infections, wounds falling apart, etc.). Nicotine is the main vasoconstrictor, so getting a patch or lozenge of nicotine won't help the vasoconstriction. Best to be off the tobacco/nicotine entirely before surgery. A breast lift by definition places the wound on tension. Tension is also a risk factor for wounds. Please be honest with your Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Together you can make a plan. The amount of time to be nicotine free, (before and after the surgery), will depend on the procedure and the individual surgeon.

Jeffrey J. Roth, MD, FACS
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Risks for a Former Smoker

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All surgical procedures carry some degree of risk. The fact that you quit smoking six years ago does not really provide any additional risk than usual. Occasionally, minor complications occur and do not affect the surgical outcome. Major complications associated with this procedure are rare. The suitability of the breast lift procedure and specific risks may be determined during your consultation.

Jed H. Horowitz, MD, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 116 reviews

Are there more risks for a former smoker?

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Hello! Thank you for your question! The issue with nicotine is that it also acts as a vasoconstrictor, clamping down of blood vessels. Blood supply is always of great concern during any surgical procedure, but especially in such a procedure as a mastopexy where the viability of the nipple-areolar complex is obviously important. Since the vascularity to the area is already tenuous since it will be raised by cutting around the area, maximizing blood flow to the tissue is critical.

Typically, we recommend at least 6 weeks of smoking cessation prior to and at least 6 weeks after any surgical procedure. The longer, the better. Nicotine always increases the risk for infection, nipple necrosis, poor scarring, and wound complications, as well as other health consequences including blood clots. The anesthesia risk is greater with general anesthesia as well as pulmonary issues/lung infections postoperatively. I would discuss this with your surgeon prior to your procedure.  At 6 years, well-known studies have shown that you health risks are on par with non-smokers for health-related issues.  Hope that this helps! Best wishes!

Lewis Albert Andres, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 28 reviews

Breast lft in a Former Smoker

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Congratulations for quiting 6 years ago. There should be no increased risk for you when compared to a non smoker.


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The medical jargon is that if you have quit within 3-4 weeks before surgery you are minimizing your risk. There are really so few healing problems with augmentation that this should be of no significance especially since the last smoke was 6 years ago. However the damage from cigarettes is permanent and you are not at the baseline level if you had never smoked 

Norman Bakshandeh, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon

Risks for former smokers

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Are there more risks for former smokers with breast lift? The risks of wound healing complications are present in former smokers, but only if they quit less than a month. If you quit more than 6 months, then your risk is probably the same as a non smoker. This is because the body is amazing at repairing itself if given the right conditions.


I make my patients quit smoking 4 weeks before and 4 weeks after surgery and for the most part have had no problems with wound healing complications.

James Motlagh, MD
Tyler Plastic Surgeon

Former Smoker and Risk for Breast Augmentation and Breast Lift

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    Having quit 6 years before the surgery, your risks of problems with the breast augmentation and breast lift should be close to that of an individual who has never smoked.  Find a board certified plastic surgeon with ELITE credentials who performs hundreds of breast lifts and breast augmentations each year.  Kenneth Hughes, MD Los Angeles, CA

Remote smoking history impact on breast surgery risk?

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You quit smoking over 6 years ago. Bravo! You really should not have any problems. And definitely stay away from second-hand smoke too!

Michele A. Shermak, MD
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 57 reviews

Smoking and Breast Surgery

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After 6 years, I would not worry at all.  I have my breast lift patients quit smoking one month before surgery.  Straightforward augment patients quit one week prior.  This has led to minimal increased risk in my patients.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.