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The Dangers of Surgical Smoke

Surgical masks by Easimask, Full Support Healthcare

A recent survey has shown that the majority of healthcare workers are unaware of the hazards of surgical smoke. After reading this, you will have a better understanding of how to protect yourself against the dangers of surgical smoke.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is surgical smoke?
Who is at risk?
What is in smoke plume?
What diseases are known to inhabit surgical plume?
What are the symptoms of inhaling surgical smoke?
Why are surgical face masks ineffective?
Why are surgical smoke extractors insufficient?


What is surgical smoke?

Laser and electrocautery devices used during surgery produce smoky emissions that may contain vapours and particulate aerosols, which can have a chemical and biological impact on those exposed.

'The mutagenic effect created by thermal destruction of 1g of tissue is equivalent to that of three to six cigarettes for laser and electrocautery smoke respectively' (WL Barrett 2003)

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Who is at risk?

Theatre staff, or anyone who inhales surgical smoke on a regular basis, including patients.

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What is in smoke plume?

Acetontrile, Acetylene, Acrolein, Alkybenzene, Benzene, Bioaerosols, Blood fragments, Butene, Carbon Monoxide, Cresol, Ethane, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen Cyanide, Irritants, Methane, Mutagens, Phenol and Styrene.

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What diseases are known to inhabit surgical plume?

Cancer Cells, Hepatitis B, HIV, Viral diseases and Bacteria spores.

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What are the symptoms of inhaling surgical smoke?

Nausea, vomiting, airway inflammation, coughing, headaches and hypoxia/dizziness.

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Why are surgical face masks ineffective?

'Masks, including special laser surgical masks, are not recommended for use as a primary method of filtration: these masks may not be sufficiently effective as the primary method of smoke plume filtration. They may not create an effective seal around the face.' (MHRA—DB 2008)

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Why are surgical smoke extractors insufficient?

Many theatres do not have surgical smoke extractors. It is also not always practical, or possible, to be within this proximity for the entire procedure. Garden JM 1998 et al found being 1cm away 98% effective, but >2cm from the operation site caused a 50% decrease in efficiency of smoke removal.

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Easimask Respirator

To help combat the risks associated with surgical smoke plume FSH recommend the use of FFP3 Respirator masks for all clinical staff working with laser and electrocautery devices in theatres.

If you would like one of our Clinical Experts or Product Education Specialists to come and give your hospital or theatre staff a smoke plume talk please
contact us.

Full Support Healthcare
Harrowden Court, 66 - 80 Huxley Close, Park Farm Industrial Estate, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, NN8 6AB