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Stryker technology demonstrates dangers of surgical smoke

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Surgical smoke is likely one of the last things you might think about if you’re set to go under the knife.

However, hundreds of thousands of health care workers are exposed to it every day in the operating room, and even you as a patient can be exposed.

Surgical smoke is produced by electrosurgical tools. 

Brand Manager for Stryker, Nick Meginnis, explained the hazards of the smoke.

“If you’ve ever seen any kind of medical show or been in a surgery, you’ll see that surgeons will sometimes use a scalpel to cut tissue or open a patient. But, in 85% of all surgeries, they actually use an electrosurgical pencil,” Meginnis said.

Researchers say surgical smoke can circulate 150 chemicals, plus 16 EPA priority pollutants and carcinogenic hazards. Studies also show inhaling the smoke is like smoking up to 30 unfiltered cigarettes a day.

“Whatever is on the patient’s skin, whatever is in the patient’s blood stream is admitted into the air into that smoke and then transferred into anybody in the operating room who is breathing that smoke,” Meginnis demonstrated.

 Doctors, nurses, and even patients are exposed to surgical smoke.

“If you think about a mastectomy procedure for example -- typically if a surgeon is removing breast tissue that means cancer is involved. So if a surgeon is cutting on cancerous tissue, the cancerous chemicals and containments of that tissue is admitted into the air and transferred to anybody in the operating room,” he said. 

According to the CDC, the smoke byproduct can be controlled, but best practices to decrease exposure to the smoke are not commonly used.

“There’s actually only state in the entire country that mandates evacuating smoke in the OR by law, It’s Rhode Island,” Meginnis explained.

Stryker is a leading medical technology company that is offering up technology that can eliminate surgical smoke. 

Stryker’s smoke evacuation pencil (E-SEP) looks like a standard electrosurgical pencil, but it has a place where it will suction the smoke directly from the surgical site.

 According to the CDC, a study shows that only half of respondents reported that local exhaust ventilation (LEV) was used during laser surgery, and only 14 percent reported the use during electrosurgery.

 “If you’re a patient, and you’re going to get a surgery, you’re exposed to that smoke as well, because you’re in the OR. So it affects you because if you’re going to be in the room, you probably want to go somewhere that is using smoke evacuation technology,” Meginnis said.

The awareness for surgical smoke is growing, but according to the CDC, another study shows that around half of laser surgery and electrosurgy respondents said that they never had training that about the dangers of surgical smoke.

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