During surgical procedures that use a laser or electrosurgical unit, the thermal destruction of tissue creates a smoke byproduct. Each year, many workers, including surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgical technologists, are exposed to laser or electrosurgical smoke. Surgical plumes have contents similar to other smoke plumes, including carbon monoxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and a variety of trace toxic gases. As such, they can produce upper respiratory irritation, and have in-vitro mutagenic potential. Although there has been no documented transmission of infectious disease through surgical smoke, the potential for generating infectious viral fragments, particularly following treatment of venereal warts, may exist. Local smoke evacuation systems have been recommended by consensus organizations, and may improve the quality of the operating field. Employers should be aware of this emerging problem and advise employees of the hazards of laser smoke.
There are currently no specific OSHA standards for laser/electrosurgery plume hazards.
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