Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Edward Mills, Oghenowede Eyawo, Ian Lockhart, Steven Kelly, Ping Wu, Jon O. Ebbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

269 Scopus citations


Objective We aimed to review randomized trials and observational evidence to establish the effect of preoperative smoking cessation on postoperative complications and to determine if there is an optimal cessation period before surgery. Methods We conducted a systematic review of all randomized trials evaluating the effect of smoking cessation on postoperative complications and all observational studies evaluating the risk of complications among past smokers compared with current smokers. We searched independently, in duplicate, 10 electronic databases and the bibliographies of relevant reviews. We conducted a meta-analysis of randomized trials using a random effects model and performed a meta-regression to examine the impact of time, in weeks, on the magnitude of effect. For observational studies, we pooled proportions of past smokers in comparison with current smokers. Results We included 6 randomized trials and 15 observational studies. We pooled the 6 randomized trials and demonstrated a relative risk reduction of 41% (95% confidence interval [CI], 15-59, P = .01) for prevention of postoperative complications. We found that each week of cessation increases the magnitude of effect by 19%. Trials of at least 4 weeks' smoking cessation had a significantly larger treatment effect than shorter trials (P = .04). Observational studies demonstrated important effects of smoking cessation on decreasing total complications (relative risk [RR] 0.76, 95% CI, 0.69-0.84, P < .0001, I 2 = 15%). This also was observed for reduced wound healing complications (RR 0.73, 95% CI, 0.61-0.87, P = .0006, I 2 = 0%) and pulmonary complications (RR 0.81, 95% CI, 0.70-0.93, P = .003, I 2 = 7%). Observational studies examining duration of cessation demonstrated that longer periods of cessation, compared with shorter periods, had an average reduction in total complications of 20% (RR 0.80, 95% CI, 3-33, P = .02, I 2 = 68%). Conclusion Longer periods of smoking cessation decrease the incidence of postoperative complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-154
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Meta-analysis
  • Perioperative
  • Smoking cessation
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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