Impact of Timing of Smoking Cessation on 30-Day Outcomes in Veterans Undergoing Lobectomy for Cancer

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Seminars in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery




Lobectomy; Lung cancer; Smoking; Smoking cessation immediately prior to lobectomy; Tobacco


The adverse effects of tobacco use on postoperative outcomes are well documented. While smoking cessation is associated with overall improvement in long-term survival for lung cancer patients, the effects of cessation shortly before lung surgery are unclear. This study compares 30-day outcomes after lobectomy between active smokers, recent quitters, and nonsmokers. Patients who underwent lobectomy for cancer at national Veterans Affairs medical centers from 2012 to 2018 were retrospectively identified in the Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program database. The sample was stratified into 3 groups: smokers within 2 weeks of surgery (“active smokers”), those who quit between 2 weeks and 3 months prior to surgery (“recent quitters”), and “nonsmokers.” Propensity score matching was performed to compare groups. Of 5715 patients who met inclusion criteria, 2696 were nonsmokers, 774 were recent quitters, and 2245 were active smokers. After propensity matching, 572 patients comprised each group. Compared to recent quitters, active smokers had 48% higher odds of suffering a pulmonary complication (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.03–2.14; P = 0.035) and 72% higher odds of suffering multiple complications (CI: 1.07–2.76; P = 0.026). Relative to nonsmokers, active smokers had 81% higher odds of pulmonary complications (CI: 1.34–2.65; P = 0.003). No differences were detected in outcomes comparing recent quitters to nonsmokers. Veterans undergoing lobectomy for cancer who quit 2 weeks before surgery had less pulmonary complications than active smokers. Recent quitters have similar outcomes to nonsmokers. Surgeons should therefore encourage patients to quit smoking, including just prior to lung surgery.