The Healing Power of Quitting Smoking

Smoking may impair chronic wound healing, and doctors did not often discuss smoking with their patients

(RxWiki News) One more entry on the list of reasons to quit smoking: quitting may help your body heal its wounds. Many doctors, however, may not be talking about this benefit with their patients who smoke.

A new study found that doctors and patients rarely discussed the link between smoking and wound healing. Smoking can impair wound healing, but many patients might not know it.

Adding treatments and counseling to help eliminate smoking may benefit chronic wound patients, the authors of this study said.

"While evidence based guidelines for both chronic wound care and smoking cessation exist, they aren't being implemented together," said study author Jodi C. McDaniel, PhD, CNP, of Ohio State University in Columbus, in a press release. "We think this could be having profound effects on clinical outcomes, and ultimately, the patient's quality of life."

Dr. McDaniel and study author Kristine K. Browning, PhD, CNP, also of Ohio State University, reviewed the ways in which smoking was known to hinder wound healing. They mentioned that cigarette toxins reduced the delivery of healing compounds from the bloodstream.

Some toxins, such as nicotine, thickened patients' blood and reduced blood flow. Other toxins, like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, reduced levels of oxygen in the blood.

Drs. McDaniel and Browning also noted that smoking reduced collagen production. Collagen is a structural protein that strengthens the tissues of the body.

These researchers said treating tobacco dependence in patients with chronic wounds should be a high priority for doctors.

Patients with serious wounds often have to visit the doctor multiple times. Repeat visits can give doctors ample opportunity for interventions. However, doctors often don't assess patients' smoking status during these visits. Doctors may be unsure of how or when to bring up the topic.

"All it would take is for the smoking cessation guidelines to be added to the appendix of existing evidence based guidelines for wound care, and healthcare providers would have a foundation for how, when and what to say," Dr. Browning said.

The study authors proposed ways to incorporate the treatment of tobacco dependence into the treatment plans of patients with chronic wounds.

Drs. Browning and McDaniel said doctors should ask about patients' smoking status during each visit. Also, doctors should make patients aware of the links between continued smoking and reduced wound healing, they said.

The authors said that patients choosing to quit should be monitored and counseled. Constant assistance and support may increase the motivation to quit and improve healing.

This study was published online Jan. 7 in the Journal of Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing.

National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science grants to Ohio State University funded this study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 8, 2015