Complications of postmastectomy breast reconstructions in smokers, ex-smokers, and nonsmokers

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2001 Feb;107(2):342-9; discussion 350-1. doi: 10.1097/00006534-200102000-00007.


Smoking results in impaired wound healing and poor surgical results. In this retrospective study, we compared outcomes in 155 smokers, 76 ex-smokers, and 517 nonsmokers who received postmastectomy breast reconstructions during a 10-year period. Ex-smokers were defined as those who had quit smoking at least 3 weeks before surgery. Transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous (TRAM) flap surgery was performed significantly less often in smokers (24.5 percent) than in ex-smokers (30.3 percent) or nonsmokers (39.1 percent) (p < 0.001). Tissue expansion followed by implant was performed in 112 smokers (72.3 percent), 50 (65.8 percent) ex-smokers, and 304 nonsmokers (58.8 percent) (p = 0.002). The overall complication rate in smokers was 39.4 percent, compared with 25 percent in ex-smokers and 25.9 percent in nonsmokers, which is statistically significant (p = 0.002). Mastectomy flap necrosis developed in 12 smokers (7.7 percent), 2 ex-smokers (2.6 percent), and 8 nonsmokers (1.5 percent) (p < 0.001). Among patients receiving TR4AM flaps, fat necrosis developed in 10 smokers (26.3 percent), 2 ex-smokers (8.7 percent), and 17 nonsmokers (8.4 percent). Abdominal wall necrosis was more common in smokers (7.9 percent) than in ex-smokers (4.3 percent) or nonsmokers (1.0 percent). In this large series, tissue expansion was performed more often in smokers than was autogenous reconstruction. Complications were significantly more frequent in smokers. Mastectomy flap necrosis was significantly more frequent in smokers, regardless of the type of reconstruction. Breast reconstruction should be done with caution in smokers. Ex-smokers had complication rates similar to those of nonsmokers. Smokers undergoing reconstruction should be strongly urged to stop smoking at least 3 weeks before their surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery
  • Reoperation
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Surgical Flaps
  • Tissue Expansion