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Wound healing: E-cigarette vapour not safer than smoking

Exposure to electronic cigarette vapour appears to have the same negative impact on wound healing as conventional cigarette smoke, according to recent findings in experimental models.

Published online ahead of print in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery (Oct. 18, 2018), the research was conducted in response to the growing popularity of alternative options to traditional smoking, for which there has not yet been significant research done regarding relative safety compared to traditional smoking, particularly in the perioperative period.

Researchers randomized a cohort of 45 rats to three study arms: exposed to electronic cigarette vapour; exposed to conventional cigarette smoke (a positive control); and no exposure (the negative control).

Skin flaps were then created on each animal and re-grafted, and these flaps were monitored daily for viability and wound healing. After two weeks, a statistically increased rate of tissue death was observed for the grafted flaps on the animals in the groups exposed to either the electronic cigarette vapour or the traditional cigarette smoke.

“Based on our findings, e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes as it relates to timely wound healing,” said Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel, chief of facial plastic surgery at Boston Medical Center and the study’s corresponding author, in a press release. “Providers, and patients, need to understand the risks of both types of smoking so that they can make the best decision to keep the patient as safe as possible before and after surgery.”

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