August 26, 2019

Surgical smoke exposure in OR personnel

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor’s Note

This review article finds that surgical smoke is dangerous, but the severity of the risk has yet to be been determined. Therefore, no safe level is known.

Though numerous studies have been performed on the chemical composition of surgical smoke, the components remain unclear. The variability is likely due to the different types of surgical procedures performed, instrument used, and type of tissue cauterized.

Because surgical smoke has been found to contain toxic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic compounds, sometimes exceeding recommended limits, many organizations suggest using a smoke evacuation device. However, many surgeons won’t use them because of practical difficulties such as noise, distraction, and limited space, along with their lack of knowledge on the hazards of surgical smoke.

Efforts should be made to reduce and possibly eliminate smoke from the OR, the authors say. They recommend research into affordable and efficient electric smoke filters and long-term exposure to surgical smoke.

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