Patient smoking status affects many aspects of plastic surgery, including patient selection, counseling, management, and outcomes. No specific recommendations for performing elective procedures on patients who smoke are available. The goal of this study was to determine the current practice standards and attitudes toward this often controversial topic. In September of 2000, 1600 members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery were sent questionnaires, 955 of which were returned. Questions elicited categorical answers, either dichotomous or multiple choice. Data were evaluated using logistic regression and the chi-square and binomial tests. Our results show that 60 percent (p < 0.01) of plastic surgeons routinely perform a less than optimal procedure on their patients who smoke. The survey measured willingness to perform various operative procedures on patients who smoke and types of smoking cessation aids offered. Of those physicians who require patients to quit smoking before surgery, only 16.7 percent (p < 0.01) would perform a nicotine test if they suspected noncompliance. Interestingly, 28.6 percent (p < 0.01) of the physicians responding admit to a smoking history, whereas only 1.5 percent (p < 0.01) continue to smoke, compared with the national smoking rate of almost 25 percent. Physicians who are previous smokers are less likely to offer smoking cessation aids than those who have never smoked, and the proportion not offering aids increases as the amount of previous smoking increases (p = 0.02). This study shows that a wide range of opinions exists on which elective surgical procedures should be performed on patients who smoke. Furthermore, the physician's prior smoking history influences this decision. No clear consensus exists on how best to treat patients who smoke who request elective surgeries. Although surgeons would prefer to operate on nonsmokers, they are faced with a significant population of patients who use tobacco. No clear consensus exists on how best to treat these individuals. Advancements in wound healing research and smoking cessation aids will provide more insight into this treatment dilemma.
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