COLUMBUS—State Senator Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) last week introduced new legislation that aims to create safer conditions for surgeons, nurses and other healthcare workers who are exposed to surgical smoke, an aerosol produced by the thermal destruction of tissue by use of lasers or electrosurgical devices.
"It is incredible what our surgeons and nurses do every day for their patients, and we owe it to them to ensure they are performing their jobs in a safe environment," said Brenner. "Updating hospital policies to mitigate the risks of surgical smoke will benefit over 500,000 healthcare workers who are exposed each year, as well as the patients they serve."
The proposed legislation would require hospitals that perform surgeries to adopt and implement a policy designed to prevent human exposure to surgical smoke. Such plans would include utilizing equipment designed to capture and neutralize surgical smoke at the point of origin, before the smoke makes contact with the eyes or respiratory tract of individuals.
"Surgical smoke is created when energy devices are used in perioperative environments. Surgical nurses report twice the incidence of respiratory problems as compared to the general population," said Dr. Kay Ball, Perioperative Consultant and Adjunct Professor at Otterbein University. "Surgical smoke must be evacuated properly to ensure clean air in the OR."
Little is known about the long-term effects of chronic exposure to surgical smoke, but short-term symptoms can include irritation, headache, cough, and asthmatic reactions.