The Dangers of Electrosurgical Smoke to Operating Room Personnel: A Review
A 2007 study in the United Kingdom showed that three of 98 surgeons surveyed admitted using dedicated smoke extractors; 72% of respondents believed inadequate precautions were in place to protect staff from the potential dangers of electrosurgical smoke. Surgical smoke contains harmful chemicals (e.g., hydrogen cyanide, acetylene, and butadiene) that can circumvent standard masks used in the operating room (OR). In addition, bacteria and viruses can be transmitted through this smoke. The topic of electrosurgical smoke is important to occupational health nurses not only because of their responsibility to protect workers, but also because they, like other health care providers, may be exposed to smoke routinely. The authors of this review recommend the regular use of smoke evacuation in ORs and avoidance of electrosurgery whenever possible to protect OR personnel from the potential long-term harmful effects of electrosurgical smoke.