Effect of preoperative smoking intervention on postoperative complications: a randomised clinical trial

Lancet. 2002 Jan 12;359(9301):114-7. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(02)07369-5.


Background: Smokers are at higher risk of cardiopulmonary and wound-related postoperative complications than non-smokers. Our aim was to investigate the effect of preoperative smoking intervention on the frequency of postoperative complications in patients undergoing hip and knee replacement.

Methods: We did a randomised trial in three hospitals in Denmark. 120 patients were randomly assigned 6-8 weeks before scheduled surgery to either the control (n=60) or smoking intervention (60) group. Smoking intervention was counselling and nicotine replacement therapy, and either smoking cessation or at least 50% smoking reduction. An assessor, who was masked to the intervention, registered the occurrence of cardiopulmonary, renal, neurological, or surgical complications and duration of hospital admittance. The main analysis was by intention to treat.

Findings: Eight controls and four patients from the intervention group were excluded from the final analysis because their operations were either postponed or cancelled. Thus, 52 and 56 patients, respectively, were analysed for outcome. The overall complication rate was 18% in the smoking intervention group and 52% in controls (p=0.0003). The most significant effects of intervention were seen for wound-related complications (5% vs 31%, p=0.001), cardiovascular complications (0% vs 10%, p=0.08), and secondary surgery (4% vs 15%, p=0.07). The median length of stay was 11 days (range 7-55) in the intervention group and 13 days (8-65) in the control group.

Interpretation: An effective smoking intervention programme 6-8 weeks before surgery reduces postoperative morbidity, and we recommend, on the basis of our results, this programme be adopted.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip / adverse effects
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / adverse effects
  • Counseling / methods
  • Counseling / standards
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Preoperative Care / methods*
  • Preoperative Care / standards
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Ganglionic Stimulants
  • Nicotine