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Medical Videos
04-27-2007, 11:19 AM
Smokers have heard all of the reasons for quitting before: smoking increases their risk for lung disease, heart disease and cancer, and the habit will literally take years off their life. But one reason to quit may not be as well known smokers require special consideration when undergoing anesthesia for a surgical procedure.

The effects of smoking-related diseases increase the complications faced by patients during and after surgery, and can complicate anesthesia management. Still not convinced? Those who quit smoking before surgery also will heal faster and have less likelihood of complications such as pneumonia, heart trouble and wound infection.

Physicians can be influential motivators to help patients quit smoking as they prepare for surgery. Seeing an opportunity to further contribute to their patients' optimal health and safety, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has formed the Smoking Cessation Task Force to develop and train anesthesiologists to help their patients quit smoking.

Because of their specialized medical training, anesthesiologists are essentially heart and lung specialists when it comes to caring for the surgical patient. It is their job to monitor and manage the patient's breathing, blood pressure and heart rate among other body functions during the procedure. For smokers this presents challenges that do not exist for non smokers.

"Physicians, particularly anesthesiologists in pre-surgical consultations, should ask all patients if they are smokers, and if they are, explain to them the risks they face during surgery and recovery. We can then refer them to the many quitting and treatment options that are available," David O. Warner, M.D., chair of the ASA Smoking Cessation Initiative Task Force said. "Smoking is the largest preventable cause of illness and premature death in the United States. Even just a few minutes spent by a physician in advising smokers to quit can be effective."

Communities throughout the United States will be celebrating the national observance of Doctors Day on March 30, 2007. While physicians in all specialties and primary care medicine are honored, Doctors Day was first observed because the efforts of one physician whose endeavors specifically relate to the specialty of anesthesiology.

On March 30, 1842, Crawford W. Long, M.D., of Jefferson, Ga., administered the first ether anesthesia to James Venable and then operated to remove a tumor from the man's neck. The man would swear later that he felt nothing during the surgery and was not aware it was over until he awoke. Dr. Long's history-making achievement on that day, and the continuous efforts by physicians to alleviate human suffering in the 165 years since then, have become the basis for celebrating Doctors Day each year.

According to ASA President Mark J. Lema, M.D., Ph.D., "The advances in anesthesiology since Dr. Long's historic event have resulted in a medical specialty comprising highly trained specialists dedicated to treating patients before, during and after surgery, encouraging their overall health and safety through surgery and into recovery. Efforts of groups such as the Smoking Cessation Initiative Task Force exemplify that focus on the patient."

Many patients may find that surgery is an opportune time to quit for good. Patients will not be allowed to smoke while in the hospital, and there are a variety of resources available during their recovery ranging from counseling sessions to replacement therapies such as nicotine patches, gum and lozenges to ease withdrawal symptoms. New research also shows that most people are free from cravings for cigarettes around the time of surgery.

Patients should inform their anesthesiologist, surgeon and primary care doctor of their decision to quit. The medical team can then coordinate surgical plans and assist the patient with treatment options.

"As anesthesiologists, we witness every day the destructive consequences of smoking and are especially aware of the benefits patients experience when they make the choice to quit," Dr. Lema said. "ASA encourages its members to move beyond traditional roles and serve as patient advocates, helping to keep our patients healthy not only through surgery and recovery, but for the rest of their lives."

The full Doctors Day Media Kit for media members, planners and doctors can be found at the ASA Patient Education Web Site at http://www.asahq.org/patientEducation.htm.

Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association with 42,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.

American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)
520 N NW Highway
Park Ridge, IL 60068-2573
United States
http://www.asahq.org/