Small Steps Can Lead to Big Change

Implementing Smoke Evacuation

Sponsored: ConMed- October 2023- The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

The dangers surrounding surgical smoke have raised awareness on legal and administrative levels, appearing in legislative bills and leading conversations at perioperative conferences across the country.

Why? Because clinically accredited articles support the claim that surgical smoke is hazardous to health.

Over the last decade, the perception of surgical smoke has transitioned from a mere annoyance to a considerable health risk for everyone in the operating room.

With 90% of procedures generating surgical smoke1, over 500,000 healthcare workers are exposed annually.2 Surgical smoke particles contain over 150 chemicals known to be carcinogenic, or to cause lung, heart, or brain damage.3 And despite once believing standard surgical masks protect us, data suggest they offer little protection with 77% of surgical smoke particles penetrating the mask.4

These alarming discoveries have increased motivation to pursue stronger protection measures, including a mandate for smoke evacuators in operating environments. Designed to reduce the concentration of smoke from electrocautery devices, smoke evacuators minimize risks associated with smoke plume.

The benefits? A safer surgical suite, free from the hazards of surgical plume and a healthier and happier OR staff.

Nurses are leading this charge, promoting the implementation of smoke evacuation policies. But some efforts have been met with resistance. Obstacles include lack of awareness, cost or resource constraints, and plain old opposition to change.

“From the first time I set foot in an OR, I knew that surgical smoke was a problem,” said Rob Scroggins, RN, BSN, CMLSO. “The smell was bad. My eyes were watering. It was just really bad.” The surgical nurse with decades of experience recalled the worst part – “It was just accepted. If you worked in the OR, you knew you were going to get the smoke.”5

But if the current state of surgical smoke legislation shows us anything, it’s this: The commitment, dedication, and persistence of nurses and perioperative leaders is making a difference nationwide.

In July, Ohio and Missouri became the 13th and 14th states to mandate smoke-free operating rooms. Louisiana also celebrated their smoke legislation effective date, which took place on August 1st. As awareness grows around the repercussions of surgical smoke exposure, so are the number of states joining this movement.

If you haven’t visited the topic of surgical smoke recently, now is the time for re-education. Explore the risks associated with surgical smoke exposure and request a CE course for your facility today.

CONMED is your partner in the fight against the invisible enemy, because we believe every breath maters. To discuss options for education or smoke evacuation, reach out to your local CONMED Representative.

1 Steege AL, Boiano JM, Sweeney MH. Secondhand smoke in the operating room? Precautionary practices lacking for surgical smoke. Am J Ind Med. 2016;59(11):1020-1031.

2 Choi SH, Kwon TG, Chung SK, Kim TH. Surgical smoke may be a biohazard to surgeons performing laparoscopic surgery. Surgical endoscopy. 2014;28:2374–80.

3 Pierce JS, Lacey SE, Lippert JF, Lopez R, Franke JE. Laser-generated air contaminants from medical laser applications: a state-of-the-science review of exposure characterization, health effects, and control. J Occup Environ Hyg. 2011;8(7):447-466

4 Liu Y, Song Y, Hu X, Yan L, Zhu X. Awareness of surgical smoke hazards and enhancement of surgical smoke prevention among the gynecologists. Journal of Cancer, 2019; 10(12):2788-2799

5 Bernard, D. (2013, January 14). Clearing the air, for safety’s sake. Outpatient Surgery Magazine, Smoke Evacua

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