Is Surgical Smoke Harmful?

All surgical smoke should be considered harmful if not evacuated appropriately. The gases produced during laser surgery or electrosurgery consist of carbon monoxide (CO2), hydrogen cyanide, toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, tetrachloroethylene and benz(a)pyrene, to name a few. At a minimum, over forty chemicals have been identified within laser plume and surgical smoke. Many of these chemical toxins have already been identified as known carcinogens. The potential risks to health care professionals from inhalation of these chemical by-products include pulmonary irritation and inflammation, transmission of infection and genotoxicity. There is also a potential risk to patients when the contaminants of surgical smoke are absorbed into a patient’s vascular system, primarily during laparoscopic procedures when surgical smoke is concentrated in the peritoneal cavity. Research studies have conclusively shown that surgical smoke is hazardous. Health care professionals need to be aware of the potential health risks associated with surgical smoke and use reasonable measures to minimize exposure and prevent harmful effects.