Smoking and Spinal Fusions

Jeff Putnam

Jeff Putnam

Jeff is a workers' compensation attorney located in Omaha, Nebraska.

Almost everyone knows that smoking isn’t good for you.  We have all seen commercials featuring individuals suffering from illness and disfigurement due to tobacco use.  Research from the 1950’s on proves the link between smoking and a mountain of diseases and cancers. 

The detrimental effects of smoking become even more clear when you consider the effects of smoking on spinal fusions (which are sometimes necessary after work injuries or auto collisions).

This surgery fuses together two or more vertebrae so that they heal into a single, solid bone. But if you are a smoker, there is a good possibility that your body will not be able to create the bone needed to bridge the fusion

Many surgeons now refuse to attempt a spinal fusion for a patient who smokes. 

This means that on top dealing with an injury, the patient must cease smoking in order to receive the medical care needed for recovery.  And that is not easy. 

Brain chemistry changes when you smoke, so you need nicotine just to feel okay. When you quit, you may feel withdrawal symptoms of anxiety, discomfort, trouble sleeping, and difficulty in concentrating. In addition to the physical struggles, a person must change daily routines centered around smoking. 

Smoking cessation programs are highly recommended when a person decides to quit.  Only 3 to 5% of people who “go it alone” achieve success. Pharmaceutical interventions and counseling greatly increase the odds. 

Workers’ compensation and other insurance will usually cover smoking cessation programs preceding spinal surgery when a doctor deems the program medically reasonable. 

“Medically reasonable” seems like a slam dunk for smoking cessation before a spinal fusion.  Not only does bone heal better, post operative complications such as infection are less likely to occur.

If you have suffered an injury and require a spinal surgery, you may need an attorney to make sure you have every advantage in your recovery.  Call Putnam Law for a free consultation.