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Cigarette Smoking Delays Fracture Healing: Study

Mar 23, 2013 07:43 AM EDT

Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for many types of cancers. And, according to a new study, smoking can delay healing of a fractured bone and raise the risk of postoperative complications. The study was conducted by researchers from University of Pennsylvania.

"Cigarette smoking is widely recognized as one of the major causes of preventable disease in the US, but there has been a lack of evidence showing other side effects of smoking, such as how it changes the way our bones heal. Our study adds substantial support to a growing body of evidence showing that smoking presents a significant risk to fracture patients. These risks need to be addressed with the patient both at the time of injury and when considering surgical treatment," said Samir Mehta, M.D., chief of the Orthopedic Trauma and Fracture Service at Penn Medicine.

For the study, researchers collected data from various studies that have looked into the effects of smoking on fracture healing. In all, there were 6,480 patient cases who had received surgical or non-surgical interventions for bone repair.

Smoking has already been listed as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone fracture, according to the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Disease National Resource Center. Quitting smoking can lower fracture risk, but it takes several years for a former smoker to lower the risk of osteoporosis.  

Researchers found that a fractured bone would take about 6 weeks longer to heal than a broken bone in a non-smoker: 30.2 weeks compared to 24.1 weeks. Also, fractured bones in smokers have higher risk (2.3 times higher) of having non-healed fractured or non-unions than fractured bones in non-smokers.

"The effects of smoking intervention programs need to be discussed and instituted to promote better outcomes for post-fracture patients. We have an opportunity to help patients understand that it's about more than just heart health, and that smoking puts you at a higher risk of complications and leads to longer healing times," said Mehta, according to a news release.

The study was presented at the 2013 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting in Chicago.

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