Grant McArthur http://bit.ly/13u5SXl
SMOKERS will be asked to quit before undergoing surgery and be referred for help while on waiting lists under new medical guidelines.
A strengthened smoking policy from the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists will require all elective surgery patients to be asked if they smoke, and for tobacco users to be given referrals to help them quit before their operations.
The policy will not give practitioners the power to delay or cancel surgery. But ANZCA president Dr Lindy Roberts said the guidelines would offer smokers the best chance to avoid life-threatening complications by providing them with support.
The hope is to convince and help smokers to quit four to six weeks before surgery, while they are already on the waiting list, which can greatly cut the risks of serious complications during recovery.
“Smokers are at greater risk of complications such as pneumonia, heart attacks and wound infections,” Dr Roberts said.
“When you are coming into hospital for something like an operation, it does provide you with an opportunity to think about your health more generally, and the benefits of giving up smoking for your health are in the longer term as well as relating to surgery and anaesthesia.
“It may be that when presented with the risks for a certain procedure that the surgery is delayed to allow somebody to improve their health prior to the surgery.
“From time to time a decision may be made between the anaesthetist, the surgeon and the patient to delay the surgery if there is something that can be improved to make them fitter for surgery.”
The move follows the success of a Frankston Hospital program in which all smokers entering the surgery waiting list were sent a quit pack – prompting 13 per cent to act and contact Quitline. Australian Medical Association Victorian president Victoria president Dr Stephen Parnis said the college’s quit-smoking stance was a positive move, balancing the need to advise patients without discriminating.
“This is not about banning people, this is about giving them the best chance to benefit,” Dr Parnis said. “When you weigh into account the procedure they need and their health, if there is a benefit to delaying the procedure then we would do that.”