Smoke in an operating room? It’s common

National

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — You probably wouldn’t expect smoke in an operating room but every day, nurses, doctors and patients are exposed to what some are calling deadly surgical smoke.

The smoke is created by surgical instruments that are used to cauterize or vaporize tissues. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while surgical smoke is a nuisance because it has a repulsive odor and can obstruct the surgeon’s view of the surgical site, it has also been shown to contain toxic gases, viruses and bacteria. 

Nick Meginnis with Stryker Corporation says just one day’s worth of smoke in the OR can be equivalent to smoking up to 27 cigarettes.

“Surgical smoke is very harmful. It’s burning flesh. Surgical smoke is a byproduct of cutting and cauterizing tissue during surgery,” Meginnis explained. “There are more than 150 different chemicals in surgical smoke. It can cause respiratory issues, potentially lung disease.”

He said surgical nurses are two times more likely to develop respiratory issues than the general population because of surgical smoke.  

“If you think about the amount of smoke that a nurse could potentially be breathing in over the course of a six- to eight-hour day, four to five days a week over a 20- or 30-year career, it’s staggering,” Meginnis said.

Stryker says an estimated that 500,000 health care workers are exposed to surgical smoke each year.

But the Kalamazoo-based medical technology company has a SafeAir smoke evacuation pencil meant to resolve the problem.

stryker safe air smoke evacuation pencil
Stryker’s SafeAir smoke evacuation pencil. (July 22, 2019)

“It looks a lot like a standard electric surgical pencil, but there’s a small port built in that if you attach this to a vacuum or some kind of smoke evacuation source, it will evacuate the surgical smoke right at the site before the clinicians can breathe it in,” Meginnis explained.

Rhode Island and Colorado recently passed mandatory smoke evacuation laws.

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