Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Call for mandatory extraction of diathermy smoke in theatres

  • 1 Comment

Diathemy smoke carries nine hazardous compounds but some surgeons elect not to use smoke extractors during cauterisation procedures, an operating department practitioner has warned.

The electrical devices that are used to cauterise tissue during surgical operations cause plumes of smoke to arise as intense heat is applied to flesh.

“All we can practically do is agree that there are some potentially dangerous particles in there and make recommendations”

Lynda Dunn

Research has shown that these fumes – known as diathermy smoke – contain compounds that are potentially harmful to the health of the personnel participating in the operation.

Lynda Dunn, a University of Huddersfield lecturer and operating department practitioner, has published two articles analysing existing research on the topic.

They show that 45 compounds have been detected in diathermy smoke, she said. Nine are hazardous and four of them are carcinogens.

It is clear, she argues the Journal of Operating Department Practitioners, that the use of an extraction device in the operating theatre would be best practice.

But until there is more conclusive evidence on the health risks of diathermy smoke, it will be difficult to procure legislation on the need to extract it from operating theatre air, she notes.

However, she acknowledges that research to establish conclusively the health risks of the smoke would be long and costly.

“You would have to look at people’s health maybe 30 years down the line and decide whether or not any problems were due to their exposure to the smoke,” said Ms Dunn.

The lack of evidence means there is also a lack of guidance on the issue from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

“All we can practically do is agree that there are some potentially dangerous particles in there and make recommendations,” said Ms Dunn.

Extractor devices are now available. Attached to the diathermy “pens” that are used during operations, they have become less cumbersome, but not all surgeons elect to use them in theatre.

Ms Dunn said she hoped that her work would help lead to much wider adoption of extractors, which in turn would bring down the cost of the devices.

“I would definitely encourage people to use extractors,” she said. “Apart from anything else, it is much more pleasant to work in an operating theatre without the smell of the smoke.”

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • A surgical plume is only one of many noxious materials currently affecting perioperative staff. In a climate of financial restraint it is right to challenge for the provision of personal protective equipment and devices that assist in the removal of air borne contaminants.

    Adrian Jones
    Vice President
    The Association for Perioperative Practice
    www.afpp.org.uk

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.