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The potential dangers of surgical smoke

The potential dangers of surgical smoke

In cases of surgery where tissue is dissected using products such as electrosurgical units, lasers, high speed drills and cautery units, surgical smoke is produced. As with smoke in any other context, repeated exposure can be harmful, The Association for Perioperative Practice explained. This article will take a closer look at some of the potential dangers of exposure to surgical smoke, as well as the most effective way to deal with the issue.

Why is smoke produced during surgery?
As detailed by the AfPP, certain devices utilized by surgeons to cut through tissue and close up wounds (haemostasis) produce smoke. This is a consequence of the intense heat used, from tools such as electrosurgery units and lasers. The former device is used most frequently in surgery, with lasers following behind. Other tools that can produce surgical smoke include:

  • High speed drills. {I think these should all be capped(?)}
  • Ultrasonic devices.
  • Burrs.
  • Saws.

The smoke itself, as explained by the AfPP, occurs when cellular fluid from the body turns into steam and is released into the surrounding air. 

Why is surgical smoke hazardous?
As with any other source of smoke, surgical smoke contains a number of chemicals that can be hazardous, especially after routine exposure, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration explained. Surgical smoke is composed of an array of toxic gases, in small amounts, hazardous chemicals, as well as polyaromatic hydrocarbon and carbon dioxide.

The AfPP reported on a 2004 study from Barrett and Garber, for the British Occupational Hygiene Society, which found that some of the most dangerous chemicals in surgical smoke include hydrogen cyanide and acrylonitrile. Both are highly toxic and enter the body via both the respiratory system and the skin. 

"Some of the most dangerous chemicals in surgical smoke include hydrogen cyanide and acrylonitrile."

OSHA explained that some potential consequences of exposure to this smoke include certain cancers, due to the smoke's mutagenic properties, as well as general irritation and discomfort within the respiratory system. OSHA elaborated that there also exists, theoretically at least, the possibility of cross-contamination with viruses via surgical smoke. This is due to the fact that viral particles are released when the body tissue is turned to steam. The source stressed, however, that there have been no documented cases of this occurring. Still, the risk shouldn't be ignored. 

The solution
OSHA reported that medical workers are most vulnerable to the effects of surgical smoke, as they are most likely to receive repeated exposure. Indeed, the source explained that roughly half a million medical workers, especially surgeons and anesthesiologists, are exposed to surgical smoke nationwide every year. While the risk is notable, there is a strategy that many medical facilities use to curtail exposure and risk – smoke evacuation systems. As detailed in an article published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, the systems are designed to intervene and suction away smoke as it is being produced at the surgical site. The systems are vacuum based and their implementation is widely encouraged by a number of organizations, OSHA noted. 

Smoke can be produced during certain surgical procedures.Smoke can be produced during certain surgical procedures.

The ONETRAC Single-Use Cordless Surgical Retractor
If you are looking for an effective solution with regard to surgical smoke at your medical practice, consider adopting the ONETRAC Single-Use Cordless Surgical Retractor from OBP Medical. Designed with its own smoke evacuation channel, specifically for procedures involving electrocautery, as well as a safe built-in LED light source, this single-use tool eliminates the risk of cross-contamination from medical tools. Furthermore, these ready-made, single-use tools are easy to use, which is conducive to a more efficient working environment. They are also more cost-effective than reusable medical devices that necessitate a lengthy sterilization process after use. To learn more about the ONETRAC Single-Use Cordless Surgical Retractor and to request a free sample, click here.