My doctor insists that I quit smoking before I have spine surgery. Why?

The nicotine that enters your bloodstream when you smoke or chew tobacco makes your blood vessels narrower. This is called vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction slows the flow of blood throughout your body.

A good blood supply is vital for proper healing. Blood carries oxygen, nutrients, white blood cells, and other crucial agents to the injured tissues. Blood also carries away waste by-products of healing. Many parts of the spine, especially in the lower back, don't have very good blood supply even at the best of times. After surgery, your healing spine needs all the blood it can get. The vasoconstriction caused by smoking means your spine will not get the blood it needs.

Smoking after surgery can slow your recovery time, and it may even contribute to other complications after surgery. To ensure that you heal as well as possible, stop smoking for before surgery, and don't smoke again until you are fully healed. Or better yet, don't ever start again. Your doctor can help you find ways to kick the habit.