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Posted: July 14th, 2022

The Dangers of Electrosurgical Smoke to Operating Room Personnel

The Dangers of Electrosurgical Smoke to Operating Room Personnel

Electrosurgical smoke is a byproduct of using high-frequency electrical current to cut or coagulate tissue during surgical procedures. It contains harmful chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and hydrogen cyanide, as well as bacteria and viruses that can be transmitted through inhalation or contact. Exposure to electrosurgical smoke can cause acute and chronic respiratory problems, eye irritation, headaches, nausea, and increased risk of cancer. Operating room personnel, including surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgical technologists, are exposed to electrosurgical smoke on a regular basis, but many are unaware of its potential hazards or fail to implement protective measures.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have specific standards for electrosurgical smoke hazards, but recommends the use of local smoke evacuation systems to capture and filter the smoke at the source. Smoke evacuation systems consist of a suction device, tubing, and a filter that can remove particles and gases from the smoke. The suction device should have a flow rate of at least 25 cubic feet per minute and be positioned as close as possible to the surgical site. The tubing should be short and wide to prevent clogging and reduce noise. The filter should have a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) rating and be changed regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

In addition to using smoke evacuation systems, operating room personnel should also wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, goggles, masks, and respirators, to minimize their exposure to electrosurgical smoke. Masks and respirators should fit properly and have a filtration efficiency of at least 95% for particles of 0.3 microns or larger. Operating room personnel should also avoid touching or rubbing their eyes or skin after handling electrosurgical instruments or smoke-contaminated materials.

Operating room personnel have a responsibility to protect themselves and their colleagues from the dangers of electrosurgical smoke. By using smoke evacuation systems, wearing PPE, and following safe work practices, they can reduce their exposure to electrosurgical smoke and its associated health risks.

Works Cited

Bree, K., Barnhill, S., & Rundell, W. (2017). The Dangers of Electrosurgical Smoke to Operating Room Personnel: A Review. Workplace Health & Safety, 65(3), 132-139. https://doi.org/10.1177/2165079917691063

Laser/Electrosurgery Plume – Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2023, from https://www.osha.gov/laser-electrosurgery-plume

Munro, M.G., & Storz-Ercegovicz, K. (2014). Health risks associated with exposure to surgical smoke for surgeons and operating room personnel. Surgery Today, 44(11), 1989-1998. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00595-014-1085-z Research essay writing service.

Control of Smoke From Laser/Electric Surgical Procedures | NIOSH | CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/hazardcontrol/hc11.html

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