The hazard of surgical plume
What is surgical plume?
Surgical Plume is the vaporous plume resulting from surgical intervention with tissue. This noxious and odorous by-product contains both organic and inorganic matter. Plume can also obscure visualisation of the operative site, which could conceivably give rise to some risk to patient safety.
The plume falls into two categories, those being chemical and those being bacteriological, of which both have their own health risks. Chemical matter is more likely to be smaller particles, whereas biological matter is of larger size particles, however both are potential hazards to health. Surgical plume can contain carbons, hydrocarbons, viral particles, additionally toxic gases, cellular debris, blood borne products, carcinogens and numerous noxious substances like Benzene, Toluene and Formaldehyde.
How are healthcare professionals exposed? What is the risk?
Earlier, we mentioned that when thermal energy devices are used, cellular disruption occurs. As a result, this produces a vaporous plume, which rises into the surrounding area and spreads throughout the entire room. The staff are exposed to significant risk levels, which have been likened to cigarette smoking. Some suggest only 1 gram of surgical plume is equivalent in toxicity terms to smoking between 3 to 6 cigarettes. In the operating theatre, it would be reasonable to suggest that several grams or more of surgical plume are produced during the average surgical procedure. Based on a recent study, healthcare professionals may be unwittingly exposed to the equivalent of 27-30 cigarettes per day in the operating theatre.
Of course, the choice to smoke cigarettes is a life-style choice, whereas healthcare professionals would not necessarily choose to be exposed in this manner.
Why has there not been more wide spread adoption of surgical plume evacuation devices to date?
Perhaps, in part, the answer to this question is a previous lack of awareness of the dangers present in surgical plume. Also many of these exposure elements may not present until later in life, perhaps beyond the ability to collate data from individuals. Any suggestions therefore of morbidity or mortality due to surgical plume exposure remain subjective. It is once again interesting that SARS/COV-2 has raised several questions and concern about the risk of exposure. Given that Covid virus is small, it is amongst many other small particles that have existed in surgical plume, prior to the Covid Pandemic.
In addition there have been some limitations in the solutions previously offered. Surgeons have complained that of solutions being ‘too noisy’ causing un-neccessary distractions or that the ‘hand switch plume pencils are far too bulky and cumbersome’.
Finally, a new solution, that addresses these concerns, is in your hands.
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