The Importance of Smoke Evacuation During Surgery

The Importance of Smoke Evacuation During Surgery

Air cleanliness is essential to maintaining a safe operating environment for patients, surgeons, and clinical staff. With the rise in plastic surgery procedures, a growing number of hospitals and surgery centers are using electro-surgical units to perform these procedures. While electro-surgical units offer superb cutting accuracy, they also produce smoke plumes that could be harmful to patients and clinical staff in the operating room. Fortunately, smoke evacuation systems and medical devices have evolved to make it easy for health care providers to eliminate potentially harmful smoke from the operating room. Below is a look at the key elements of smoke evacuation and the important role that smoke evacuation plays during surgery.

What Exactly is a Smoke Evacuation System?

“Surgical smoke evacuation systems are high-flow vacuum sources used to capture, at the surgical site, the smoke aerosols and gases generated during the use of lasers and electrosurgical units (ESUs).”

– National Center for Biotechnology Information

In more simple terms, smoke evacuation systems consist of a vacuum pump with filters that help actively remove surgical smoke and aerosol from the operating room. After the system filters out the dangerous contaminants, the filtered air is returned to the operating room. In their Primer on Smoke Evacuation, the Outpatient Surgery editorial team describes the primary components of a smoke evacuator:

  • vacuum source that pulls smoke-laden air into a nozzle and through tubing to a filter
  • filter system that traps smoke and redistributes the filtered air to the operating area
  • disposable hose that connects the evacuator to the surgical site
  • control panel designed to safely eliminate interference with other medical devices

When is Smoke Evacuation Needed?

“The American Occupational Safety and Health Administration have estimated that 500,000 workers are exposed to laser and electrosurgical smoke each year. The use of standard surgical masks alone does not provide adequate protection from surgical smoke.”

– Journal of Hospital Infection  

Smoke evacuation is not required during every type of surgical procedure. Operating an electro-surgical unit or laser equipment during a surgical procedure can produce potentially harmful smoke plume. Electro-surgical units are frequently used to conduct plastic surgery but may also be used during urological surgery, ophthalmic surgery, dermatological surgery, and other types of procedures. Essentially, smoke evacuation is needed to control the following during surgery:

  • Noxious odors that often arise when an electro-surgical unit is used to cut or desiccate tissue
  • Harmful chemical particles present in smoke plumes that are small enough to pass through most surgical masks
  • Other potentially harmful matter that is generated during plastic surgery procedures

What Can Happen if You Operate Without a Smoke Evacuator?

Failure to properly channel this smoke safely out of the operating room can result in inhalation of carbon monoxide, benzene, and hydrogen cyanide. These compounds can result in health problems such as respiratory distress, eye irritation, and nausea. In addition to these health problems, failure to remove surgical smoke can produce a myriad of non-acute health complications that people may not trace back to their exposure to surgical smoke. Paula Graling, Chair of AORN’s Smoke Task Force describes this phenomenon as follows:

“These [symptoms] are not the kinds of things you go to occupational health about; these are the things that you go to your primary-care doctor about: skin problems, asthma attacks, conjunctivitis, the colds that won’t go away…” 

 Paula Graling, Chair of AORN’s Smoke Task Force

Despite the potential health complications outlined above, smoke evacuation is not a top priority for many healthcare practitioners. This creates a risky operating environment that can compromise the health of patients and staff. Fortunately, the release of these harmful compounds can be prevented with a smoke evacuator and other devices that funnel smoke away from the operating area.

How Have Medical Devices Evolved to Facilitate Smoke Evacuation?

Portrait of successful medical workers in surgical uniform in operation theater. Team of surgeon standing in operating room, ready for next operation.

Clearly, smoke evacuation plays a key role in preserving a safe and sanitary operating environment. As owners of hospitals and surgery centers increase their focus on safety, the smoke evacuation system market is projected to grow 5.6% between 2015 and 2020. Forward-thinking manufacturers of medical devices are taking note of this trend and adapting their devices to foster safe smoke evacuation.

One example of a medical device that was designed to facilitate smoke evacuation is obp’s ONETRAC retractor. The ONETRAC features an integrated smoke evacuation channel designed to aid plastic surgeons properly channel smoke away from the surgical environment. Some of the key benefits of the ONETRAC are as follows:

  • Promote ease of use through a ready to use design
  • Superb illumination of surgical cavities through LED lighting
  • Reduces the risk of cross-contamination
  • Eliminates time and expense spent on reprocessing or sterilizing
  • Individually packaged to optimize safety and sterility

What Types of Facilities Can Benefit From Smoke Evacuation Systems and Devices?

Smoke evacuation is a process that should not be reserved for hospital operating staff. With outpatient surgery expected to increase 11 percent between 2017 and 2022, a growing number of ambulatory surgery center owners are investing in smoke evacuation devices to improve the air quality in their facilities. Additionally, surgeons who travel abroad to conduct surgery are exploring lightweight, portable devices such as obp’s ONETRAC that feature built-in smoke evacuation channels. Finally, universities and research facilities that use electro-surgical units are recognizing the need for smoke evacuation devices during procedures. Efforts to manage surgical smoke are receiving support from professional societies such as the American Association of Registered Nurses (AORN) and the departments of labor for various states.

The Bottom Line

We invite you to contact us at obp to find out how we can help you maintain a safe environment for your staff and your patients. Our team of medical device experts has the expertise and medical devices to help you properly eliminate surgical smoke from your operating room. Whether you are operating in a multi-specialty surgery center in the United States or planning to travel overseas as part of a surgical mission, obp can introduce you to single-use medical devices that are portable, affordable, and effective during surgery. We look forward to helping your surgical practice thrive with the latest cutting-edge medical devices!