Smoking is Bad to the Bone

Smoking slowed healing of fractured bones

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The body is designed to heal after breaking a bone. But it may not be designed to heal a broken bone while processing cigarette smoke and nicotine.

A recent study looked at the differences between smokers and non-smokers when healing from a broken bone. Results showed that smokers took several extra weeks to heal from a fracture.

Smokers also had higher odds of the fracture not healing properly.

"Don’t smoke after breaking a bone."

Mara L. Schenker, MD, orthopaedics resident at the University of Pennsylvania’s Health System, and colleagues presented evidence suggesting that smoking may interfere with healing bone fractures.

The research team dug through three major medical databases and found 20 studies that included smokers with broken bones.

Based on the information found in those 20 studies, the authors found that smokers had about two to three times the odds of a bone fracture not healing properly, compared to non-smokers.

For all types of bone breaks, smokers generally needed 30 weeks to heal, compared to 24 weeks for non-smokers. That means that by simply not smoking, broken bones healed an average of six weeks faster.

Among individuals who broke their shin bone, or tibia, smokers had to wait 32 weeks to heal, compared to 25 weeks for non-smokers. That’s an extra seven weeks of recovery time.

Among individuals who had to have surgery to repair their bone fracture, no difference was found in post-surgical infection rates between smokers and non-smokers.

The authors noted the small size of the studies could have been a limitation in this study.

“The potential risks need to be discussed with all fracture patients, and the effects of smoking intervention programs should be instituted to promote better outcomes in post-fracture patients,” said the authors.

This study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) in Chicago, IL, March 19-23, 2013. The results of this study have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

No funding information was made available to the public. No conflicts of interest were reported by the authors.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 19, 2013
Last Updated:
August 16, 2013