What is Surgical Smoke?

Surgical smoke is the term used to describe any gaseous byproduct containing bio-aerosols, including viable and non-viable cellular material, resulting from laser tissue ablation and electrocautery. Other terms used to describe this byproduct are plume, aerosol and vapor. It should be noted that manufacturers of ultrasonic scalpels typically use the word vapor. And although most of the research done to date has been on what are called “hot tools” (laser and electrosurgical), the aerosols generated by an ultrasonic device should not be ignored as a potential health hazard. In fact, the risk posed by these devices may even be greater since the lower temperature vapor has a higher chance of containing more infectious and live materials. The volume of surgical smoke created during laser surgery or electrosurgery depends on the type of procedure, the surgeon’s technique, the type of tissue, the power levels used and duration, and the amount of tissue ablated or lased. Surgical smoke has been demonstrated to be cytotoxic, genotoxic and mutagenic.