Protecting Hospital Workers, Patients from Surgical Smoke
A bill requiring hospitals and outpatient surgical facilities to install ventilation systems to prevent human exposure to surgical smoke may fall victim to the coronavirus.
A public hearing for HB 5421 was set for March 13, but with the state Capitol and Legislative Office Building closed until March 30, the hearing may never be held—and the bill may never see the light of day.
Increasingly, surgery is performed using lasers and electrosurgical devices.
These high-tech instruments have a significant advantage over making incisions using more traditional knives because they are more precise and cause less blood loss. Their use also involves vaporization of tissue.
It is now understood this surgical smoke is very harmful.
Surgical smoke contains some 150 hazardous chemicals—including benzene, hydrogen cyanide and formaldehyde—as well as carcinogenic and mutagenic cells and viruses, such as the HPV virus (which causes cervical cancer and has recently been associated with head/neck cancers).
Surgical smoke can cause cancer cells to metastasize in the incision site of patients undergoing tumor removal surgery. Babies born by C-section breathe in their mother’s surgical smoke at birth.
Most affected by surgical smoke are the doctors, nurses and support staff who are exposed to it over long hours each day spent in the operating room.
It is estimated that the average daily impact of surgical smoke to surgical teams is the equivalent of smoking 27-30 unfiltered cigarettes.
Fortunately, surgical smoke can be effectively vented from operating rooms via suction devices already in place in many operating rooms, or by using special evacuation devices attached to electrosurgical instruments.
While many facilities already evacuate surgical smoke during some operating room procedures, few consistently do so for all procedures which generate surgical smoke.
HB 5421 solves this problem by requiring surgical facilities to prevent exposure to surgical smoke by installing effective surgical smoke evacuation systems by next January.
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