Smokers who get boob jobs risk their nipples falling off from lack of oxygen; doctors have found that leeches may help save them

Saturday, December 30, 2017 by

It’s common knowledge that smoking is bad for the health: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that it is the leading cause of preventable death. It also damages the body in the worst possible way – nearly every organ in the body is harmed because of smoking. To add another hazard to the list: Smokers who plan to have (or just had) breast augmentation surgery have a higher risk of having their nipples turn black and fall off.

This claim was made by Dr. Anthony Youn in an article that appeared in the Daily Mail. According to him, this condition affects patients who are exposed to cigarettes (whether from being smokers themselves or through other means) a month prior and after their surgery. This is due to the toxins in the cigarettes that impair blood circulation to the recovering breasts. In a bizarre twist, this condition can be treated with the help of “blood-sucking medical grade leeches.” In that regard, surgeons advise patients to stop smoking at any time during surgery.

This effect does not only apply during breast surgery, the Dr. Youn warned. Any surgery which changes a person’s blood supply like abdominoplasty (commonly referred to as a tummy tuck), rhytidectomy (facelifts), and breast augmentation can be potentially dangerous if the person is exposed to smoking. (Related: Smoking causes up to 40% of cancer deaths in the US… so why are cigarettes still sold by pharmacies?)

“The nicotine and the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke constrict blood vessels and you need that blood to heal and for your body to be alive,” according to the plastic surgeon.

When a person smokes before (or after) a surgery, the cigarette carbons act as a “virtual tourniquet” and constricts blood vessels from providing the affected region with blood needed to heal and nourish it. This drastic cut in the blood supply can cause that body part to die, in a process called necrosis.

Dr. Youn shared that an early indicator that an area is not receiving enough blood is a change in color. When a region is deprived of blood flow, it turns either purple or blue. A patient will not feel much pain from the process but will feel numb in the affected area.

For the nipple, he said that necrosis in that region may take up to several weeks, during which the nipple will fall on its own. Usually, a doctor will surgically remove it and reconstruct the nipple and areola.

However, if caught early, the area could be restored, albeit using an unconventional method. Dr. Youn revealed that in such cases, leeches will be used “to literally suck out the excess venous blood from the body part.” The leeches will then act as a temporary vein during the recovery period until the area is able to grow new blood vessels. The process normally takes a couple of days, wherein the area will be drained of old blood and will turn from purple to pink. He recounted having done the procedure twice on nipples and once on a finger. The procedure may look rare; however, most hospitals have access to medical leeches.

Medical leeches

The use of leeches in medical treatment is known as hirudotherapy. The practice is rooted medicine since the ancient times, and multiple studies have stated positive outcomes from it. Medical leeches are often used to improve blood flow in an area that may not have proper circulation. They do it by removing blood clots from delicate parts of the skin.

Sources include:

DailyMail.co.uk

CDC.gov



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