Risk of respiratory complications and wound infection in patients undergoing ambulatory surgery: smokers versus nonsmokers

Anesthesiology. 2002 Oct;97(4):842-7. doi: 10.1097/00000542-200210000-00015.


Background: Smoking is considered to be a risk factor for patients undergoing surgery and anesthesia, but it is unclear whether this is applicable to patients undergoing ambulatory surgery. The aim of this study was to determine the risk of respiratory complications and wound infection among smokers.

Methods: The authors studied a random selection of 489 adult patients undergoing ambulatory surgery. Smoking status was determined by self-report and confirmed with end-expired carbon monoxide analysis. The risk of respiratory complications (i.e., desaturation, cough, laryngospasm, bronchospasm, breath-holding, or apnea) and wound infection (i.e., wound redness or discharge +/- positive microbial culture, requiring antibiotic therapy) in smokers nonsmokers was ascertained. Odds ratios were estimated from multivariable logistic regression and adjusted for age, gender, body mass index, partner's smoking status, domiciliary smoking exposure, and extent and duration of surgery.

Results: Most smokers continued to smoke up until the day of surgery. Smokers had a higher rate of respiratory complications (32.8% vs. 25.9%; adjusted odds ratio, 1.71; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-2.84; = 0.038) and wound infection (3.6% vs. 0.6%; odds ratio, 16.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.58-175; = 0.019). Odds ratios comparing current plus ex-smokers with nonsmokers were of similar magnitude for most of these complications.

Conclusions: Smoking was associated with an increased risk of respiratory complications and postoperative wound infection in ambulatory surgery patients. These findings warrant increased efforts at promoting smoking avoidance and cessation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Anesthesia Recovery Period
  • Carbon Monoxide / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Intraoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking / physiopathology*
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology*


  • Carbon Monoxide