Plastic Surgeon Dr. Darshan Shah Tackles Issue of Smoking and Surgery: New Advances to Help Patients in Their Quests to Quit

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Smoking and surgery are always a dangerous duo, but for cosmetic procedures, the risks can be even greater. Industry-leading plastic surgeon Dr. Darshan Shah--of Beautologie Medical Group in Bakersfield, CA--is making it his mission to abort this danger by personally aiding patients in their struggles to ban the butts; he is finding success where others have failed with a combination of cosmetic surgery as an incentive, strategic plans, educational materials and resources, encouragement, and the newest in pharmaceutical advances.

The surgery itself is more dangerous if the patient has been exposed, even secondhand, to nicotine and carbon monoxide, because they are coming into the surgery with constricted blood vessels and lower oxygen levels. This sets them up for an increased chance of complications from the anesthesia in addition to decreased blood supply to the vital organs.

Smoking and plastic surgery are not a pretty pair, and Dr. Darshan Shah, of Beautologie Medical Group in Bakersfield, CA, is leading the pack in a new movement to finally confront the issue head on, not just alerting patients to the dangers, but also assisting them in their quests to quit.

The number-one reason for undergoing cosmetic surgery is to enhance appearance and boost self-esteem. That being said, one would think patients would follow their doctors' orders…especially if non-compliance could negatively impact their post-surgery results. However, when it comes to smoking and surgery, this is often not the case: Every year a number of patients ignore their surgeons' warnings and continue to smoke both prior to and following cosmetic procedures. The result is that too many have cautionary tales to tell.

For Dr. Shah, risking his patients' wellbeing by allowing them to undergo surgery while continuing to smoke (or quitting for merely the shortest advised period) is not an option. And he's willing to get personally involved to support it.

According to Dr. Shah, who is one of the industry's foremost breast and body specialists and currently ranked among California's top 10 breast augmentation surgeons, "Helping my patients in any way I can is part of my personal approach. I feel that simply saying, 'You need to quit smoking,' is not enough. Most people have tried to quit and failed; while it may not be an inherent part of our job descriptions, I believe surgeons should be using our medical knowledge, the surgery as incentive, and today's advanced medications to actually help patients stop smoking."

What Is the Danger?
So what exactly is the danger of mixing smoking with cosmetic surgery? Dr. Shah feels that if patients are to be convinced of the necessity of quitting smoking, it is helpful that they understand how, precisely, smoking interferes with surgery and surgical results. As he explains, "Smoking is dangerous in terms of plastic surgery in two ways: First of all, nicotine causes the tiny blood vessels in the skin to clamp down or constrict (termed 'vasoconstriction'), which reduces blood supply to the skin. Secondly, the carbon monoxide replaces nutrient-rich oxygen in the blood; these two impediments work together to limit the amount of oxygen that makes its way to the site of the incision. It is oxygen that serves to nourish a wound, causing it to heal properly." If your incisions can't heal, you are willingly sacrificing the enhanced appearance that was the goal of the surgery in the first place.

Furthermore, the repercussions of smoking are not limited to an unsightly appearance…and you don't even have to be a smoker yourself to be at risk. According to Dr. Shah, "The surgery itself is more dangerous if the patient has been exposed, even secondhand, to nicotine and carbon monoxide, because they are coming into the surgery with constricted blood vessels and lower oxygen levels. This sets them up for an increased chance of complications from the anesthesia in addition to decreased blood supply to the vital organs." Therefore, in Shah's opinion, patients should not only quit smoking prior to undergoing plastic surgery, they should limit their exposure to secondhand smoke whenever possible.

And the repercussions are far reaching. According to the industry-resource website, possible complications associated with mixing smoking and cosmetic surgery include the following:

  •     Poor and/or delayed wound healing
  •     Increased risk of infection
  •     Longer bruising period
  •     Skin loss
  •     Hypertrophic or keloid (thick, fibrous tissue) scarring
  •     Increased risk of pulmonary (lung) problems
  •     Necrosis (death) or breakdown of skin or other tissue

Playing It Safe for Superior Results
So how far in advance does one need to stop smoking in order to facilitate proper healing? While some surgeons advise quitting for only two weeks before and after procedures, Dr. Shah is among the most cautious, insisting that patients quit at least one month prior and at least three months following all procedures; to ensure a safe and smooth surgery and proper healing, Shah is making it his personal mission to aid patients in becoming smoke free.

Help in the Quest to Quit
So how are surgeons like Dr. Shah actually helping patients stop smoking? Shah's success has been via a combination of behavioral, emotional, and pharmaceutical techniques: providing educational materials and resources, working with patients to develop a plan of action, using their surgery as an incentive, positioning himself as an ally, and utilizing new pharmaceutical advances, among them the increasingly promising Chantix, an FDA-approved medication responsible for reducing cravings by blocking and partially activating nicotine receptors.

A Story of Smoke-Free Success
"MS," a female in her mid 40s, is a perfect example of the growing group of patients who Dr. Shah has helped stop smoking using his comprehensive "Chantix combination" approach…and one of a number who have reaped unexpected additional benefits.

MS came to Dr. Shah complaining of loose skin and excess fat in her midsection. Overweight for years, she had made short-lived attempts to lose weight, but after not seeing real results in her tummy area, she always lost motivation. After careful evaluation and approval from her physician, Dr. Shah felt that a tummy tuck would be an excellent option for slenderizing her stomach and tightening loose abdominal muscles. The one catch: MS had been a pack-a-day smoker since age 15 and hadn't had much luck trying to quit. Adding to the problem, her husband was also a longtime smoker.

Dr. Shah prescribed the couple Chantix, implemented a plan that included substituting water for cigarettes, and used the surgery day as motivation, setting a three-month-prior deadline as the goal for being completely smoke free. With the medication in Chantix helping the couple significantly reduce cravings, the result was more than Shah or MS had hoped for: Not only did both husband and wife stop smoking and MS's incision heal perfectly, but the couple actually lost weight, which provided them with the motivation and self-confidence to change their eating habits long term and stick with an exercise routine. And if that wasn't enough, they reported saving $500 a month on cigarettes, money they used to buy a new car!

For smoking and plastic surgery, the long and short of the situation is this: If you are undergoing cosmetic surgery in an effort to enhance your appearance, be aware that smoking is in direct opposition to achieving this goal. Not only are you sacrificing the best possible aesthetic result, but you could actually end up looking worse than before due to the excessive bruising and scarring that may result from improper healing. Furthermore, if you can find a doctor who will help you succeed in quitting for good, you will not only look your best post surgery, but you will have made a priceless move toward protecting your health and improving your overall quality of life.

Online resources for education, tips, and support include the following:


For more information about Chantix, visit

To speak with Dr. Shah or a member of his team, or to schedule a free consultation to discuss whether cosmetic surgery is a viable option for you, call (661) 577-4179 or visit for a preliminary virtual consultation.

Dr. Darshan Shah, MD, FACS, is one of the industry's most widely respected plastic and reconstructive surgeons. With offices in Bakersfield and Beverly Hills, California, he specializes in breast and body procedures including tummy tucks, liposuction, breast augmentation, and breast lifts. Dr. Shah's credentials include Board Certification by the American College of Surgeons (FACS) and specialized training in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the prestigious Mayo Clinic. His extensive training, combined with the experience of over 8000 surgical procedures, has earned him the "Best in Bakersfield" title in 2006, 2007, and 2008. At the Kern Medical Center--University of California, San Diego, his work in breast cancer surgery earned him the Helfert award, given only to the most outstanding surgical chief resident; he is currently ranked among the top 10 breast augmentation surgeons statewide and has been featured on television shows including the Dr. Phil Show, Cutting Edge MDs 3, Extreme Makeover, The Wellness Hour, and the Today Show, as well as in numerous magazine and newspaper articles.

For more information on Beautologie Medical Group, and to view a complete list of the training and credentials of Dr. Shah and his associates, please visit


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