People do not light up cigarettes in restaurants and airplanes anymore. However, hazardous smoke is still used in the operating room. Recent studies have stated that there is a silent killer is in the conventional operating room. That is why the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses Go Clear Program has been raising awareness about the dangers of surgical smoke.
Why Surgical Smoke is Dangerous
Surgical smoke is a by product that is generated from ultrasonic devices, lasers and electrosurgical pencils. People have known that surgical smoke is dangerous ever since 1970s. However, few medical facilities have requirements regarding the use of surgical smoke.
Mary J. Ogg is a registered nurse and a member of The Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses Go Clear Program. She stated that many people think that the smoke generated from the laser is not dangerous. However, that is far from the truth.
Surgical smoke can wreak havoc on patients and healthcare providers. It has a unique chemical composition that makes it dangerous. The particles that are generated by laser devices can be as small as 1.1 microns in size. This means that they are small enough to be deposited into the alveoli, or the air sacs, in the lungs.
There was a study conducted in 2012 that showed how dangerous surgical smoke can be. The study was conducted by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. The study examined 78 porcine tissues and 6 human tissues. They found that the amount of smoke produced during surgery is equivalent to smoking 27 to 30 cigarettes.
Lisa M. Hunsicker is a plastic surgeon. She has stated that surgical smoke has taken a toll on her own health. She has been operating for the past 22 years. She was diagnosed with asthma back in 2013. She is also concerned about getting lung cancer and other health issues.
What the AORN is Doing
The AORN has created a comprehensive program for surgical facilities. The facilities are given either bronze, silver or gold awards. They are rated based on smoke evacuation compliance, education performance and proper use of OR equipment such as medical-surgical vacuums and smoke evacuators.
The state of California is also making changes to protect healthcare providers and patients. They are trying to pass a law that will require the use of scavenging systems. However, Mary stated that a lot more needs to be done. People have to be properly educated and use the right technology.