Scrub Up | Surgical Smoke- how protected are you?
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Surgical Smoke- how protected are you?

09 Apr Surgical Smoke- how protected are you?

Have you ever really thought about surgical smoke and the effect it maybe having on your health? Are you aware of the specific masks available to protect us from inhaling carcinogens? Do you know what chemicals have been found in surgical plume? Are you aware that surgical plume is more than just diathermy smoke?

If you, like me have been working in the OR for a number of years…then you probably have stopped and wondered about the effects of diathermy smoke, it truly is a smell we love to hate. Have you ever thought about laser plume, anaesthetic gases, drills, and the effects they may have on our respiratory tract? do we really need to think about full gas mask protection, or is this over reacting?

Do you know what chemicals & particulate matter has been found in surgical smoke? I don’t want to scare you but here goes: Formaldehyde, Benzene, Carbon Monoxide, Methane, Hydrogen Cyanide to name but a few;

Benzene- Human exposure to benzene has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer and aplastic anaemia.

Acute occupational exposure to benzene may cause narcosis: headache, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, tremors and loss of consciousness.

Research has recognised Hepatitis B, Human Pappilloma Virus (HPV), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) as being viable up to 14 days in smoke plume.


For these reasons it is extremely important for us to protect ourselves by following the latest research and guidelines. Wearing of N95 masks should be adhered to & junior members of staff should be educated about the risks of particulate matter and changing surgical masks frequently. The utilisation of smoke evacuation units should be closely monitored. Surgical smoke does not just affect the surgical team, the anaesthetist and patient are also exposed. Have you got any thoughts or suggestions about surgical smoke?


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