Patient Guide: Smoking and Bone Healing

Smokers face dramatically higher risk of problems after foot or ankle surgery

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Dec. 18, 2014)
– If you’re a cigarette smoker planning to have surgery on your foot or ankle, keep this in mind: Smoking and bone healing just don’t mix. Unlike the many health problems that can develop slowly when you smoke, surgical complications caused by smoking show up almost immediately, say orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists.
For example, smoking leads to less oxygen in the blood, which means the body has a more difficult time recovering from anesthesia and healing the skin where the surgery is performed. Smoking can also make it more difficult for your body to fight off a skin infection after surgery.
In addition, smoking can prevent the bones of the foot or ankle from healing properly. This condition is called a nonunion. Current research shows that smokers may have anywhere from two to 10 times the risk of wound problems and/or nonunion after foot or ankle surgery, says Clayton Bettin, MD, an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist based in Memphis, Tenn.
“The good news is that if you quit smoking before surgery, your risk of complications goes down significantly,” says Bettin. “Even if you can stop smoking for four to six weeks before your surgery and while your body is healing afterward, you significantly lower the chance of having a problem.”
To learn more, visit the How Smoking Affects Healing page at And to learn more about quitting, ask your orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist or your primary care doctor for resources.
About the AOFAS
The AOFAS promotes quality, ethical and cost-effective patient care through the education, research and training of orthopaedic surgeons and other health care providers. The Society creates public awareness for the prevention and treatment of foot and ankle disorders, provides leadership, and serves as a resource for government and industry as well as the national and international health care communities.​

About Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons use medical, physical and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery to treat patients of all ages. Relying on four years of medical school training, five years of post-graduate training and often a fellowship in orthopaedic foot and ankle care, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons perform reconstructive procedures, treat sports injuries, and manage and treat trauma of the foot and ankle.

Jennifer Hicks
Director of Public Education
Office: 847-698-4654